Recent clinical evidence has shown that smokers are six to eight times more likely to develop macular degeneration than the general population. The macula, a critical part of the retina, transforms light entering the eye into images that transfer to the brain. In this disease, the tissues in the retina break down. If you needed one more reason to quit smoking, this is it.
We spend big dollars on fancy cosmetics, but fail to remove them and clean the skin around the eyes before bed. Facial preparations used at night also get on sheets and pillowcases. Bacteria can grow in gooey cosmetics, causing eye irritation and allergic conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin filmy membrane covering the white part of the eye and lining the inside of the eyelids.) If your cosmetics have been around for a while, replace them. Throw out old cosmetics, and clean your face and eyelids well every night.
Safety goggles are a must when using tools or dangerous equipment. Sports goggles are needed in any type of sport where a ball, racquet or a person could hit the eye. Recent sport injury data shows that more eye injuries are now caused by tennis and badminton racquets than by the ball or the bird. Recreational hockey league players need a full face shield during games – there’s no NHL insurance program to help you compensate for an eye injury!
You also need protection from ultraviolet rays. Wear sunglasses to block out both the UVA and UVB rays. Eighty percent of our sun exposure occurs before the age of 20, so make sure your kids are wearing proper sunglasses. Effective sunglasses have a UV block and a wrap-around frame that sits close to the cheeks and eyebrows. Tiny little sunglasses that barely cover the eye are not recommended. They are too small to properly protect the areas around the eyes.
Loading the diet with junk food and drinking four or five cups of coffee each day, while totally ignoring regular exercise, can affect sight. Too much caffeine dries the eyes and may not be healthy for the bones. Staying fit and at a proper weight will help as we age, when the chance of developing glaucoma and macular degeneration increases.
Be concerned about glare and humidity control at work and in computer environments. Companies and people willingly invest great amounts on computers and ergonomic chairs. Yet often little is spent on controlling glare or reducing reflecting surfaces in the work environment. Drapes, desk covers and proper lighting can all ease eye strain. On the computer, use a large font size and good contrast control. Black on white and green on brown seem to work best. Reading and computer work can cause us to blink less often, drying our eyes. A vaporizer in the work area can help, while lubricant drops can make your eyes feel better and see better.
After the age of 40, regular eye examinations become very important. The chance of developing almost any serious eye disease increases rapidly as we get further away from 40 and closer to 70 or 80. In glaucoma, the optic nerve (which transfers images from the eye to the brain is damaged by increased pressure inside the eye. Macular degeneration and cataract formation (clouding of the lens of the eye) can also affect your sight. Eye examinations are especially important for those who have high blood pressure or diabetes. Such exams can detect a whole host of problems that may have no symptoms. Talk to your eye doctor about how often your eyes should be checked.
Kids also need regular eye care. All children should be screened at ages two, four and six. Be even more watchful if there is a family history of strabismus (crossed eyes) and amblyopia (lazy eye) which can result in permanently reduced vision.
Wearing contact lenses too long, sleeping in them, using contacts that do not fit well or leaving them in when the eye is red and painful are all risky habits. Purposely warping the corneas by sleeping in rigid contacts is also a dumb idea. Contacts should be fitted by an eye care professional with contact lens training. The first rule with contacts is if vision is blurry, the eye is red, or if there is significant pain, your contacts must come out and glasses should go on full-time until the problem is solved.
Ignoring symptoms of a detached retina can result in a completely blind eye. Symptoms include persisting flashes of light, floating objects or specks in the field of vision, or any loss of peripheral (side) vision. These can indicate a serious problem with the retina. Do not ignore flashes, floaters or visual field loss. As well, a painful, red eye is almost always serious. In both of these situations, see your ophthalmologist (eye doctor) or your family doctor who can assess and treat the problem or refer you to an opthalmalogist if necessary.