Your eyes are an important part of your health. Most people rely on their eyes to see and make sense of the world around them. But some eye diseases can lead to vision loss, so it is important to identify and treat eye diseases as early as possible. You should get your eyes checked as often as your health care provider recommends it, or if you have any new vision problems. And just as it is important to keep your body healthy, you also need to keep your eyes healthy.
Eye Care Tips
There are things you can do to help keep your eyes healthy and make sure you are seeing your best:
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Your diet should include plenty or fruits and vegetables, especially deep yellow and green leafy vegetables. Eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut can also help your eyes.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or having obesity increases your risk of developing diabetes. Having diabetes puts you at higher risk of getting diabetic retinopathy or glaucoma.
- Get regular exercise. Exercise may help to prevent or control diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. These diseases can lead to some eye or vision problems. So if you exercise regularly, you can lower your risk of getting these eye and vision problems.
- Wear sunglasses. Sun exposure can damage your eyes and raise your risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Protect your eyes by using sunglasses that block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation.
- Wear protective eye wear. To prevent eye injuries, you need eye protection when playing certain sports, working in jobs such as factory work and construction, and doing repairs or projects in your home.
- Avoid smoking. Smoking increases the risk of developing age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts and can damage the optic nerve.
- Know your family medical history. Some eye diseases are inherited, so it is important to find out whether anyone in your family has had them. This can help you determine if you are at higher risk of developing an eye disease.
- Know your other risk factors. As you get older, you are at higher risk of developing age-related eye diseases and conditions. It is important to know you risk factors because you may be able to lower your risk by changing some behaviors.
- If you wear contacts, take steps to prevent eye infections. Wash your hands well before you put in or take out your contact lenses. Also follow the instructions on how to properly clean them, and replace them when needed.
- Give your eyes a rest. If you spend a lot of time using a computer, you can forget to blink your eyes and your eyes can get tired. To reduce eyestrain, try the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds.
Eye Tests and Exams
Everyone needs to have their eyesight tested to check for vision and eye problems. Children usually have vision screening in school or at their health care provider’s office during a checkup. Adults may also get vision screenings during their checkups. But many adults need more than a vision screening. They need a comprehensive dilated eye exam.
Getting comprehensive dilated eye exams is especially important because some eye diseases may not have warning signs. The exams are the only way to detect these diseases in their early stages, when they are easier to treat.
The exam includes several tests:
- A visual field test to measure your side (peripheral) vision. A loss of peripheral vision may be a sign of glaucoma.
- A visual acuity test, where you read an eye chart about 20 feet away, to check on how well you see at various distances
- Tonometry, which measures your eye’s interior pressure. It helps to detect glaucoma.
- Dilation, which involves getting eye drops that dilate (widen) your pupils. This allows more light to enter the eye. Your eye care provider examines your eyes using a special magnifying lens. This provides a clear view of important tissues at the back of your eye, including the retina, macula, and optic nerve.
If you have a refractive error and are going to need glasses or contacts, then you will also have a refraction test. When you have this test, you look through a device that has lenses of different strengths to help your eye care professional figure out which lenses will give you the clearest vision.
At what age you should start getting these exams and how often you need them depends on many factors. They include your age, race, and overall health. For example, if you are African American, you are at higher risk of glaucoma and you need to start getting the exams earlier. If you have diabetes, you should get an exam every year. Check with your health care provider about if and when you need these exams.