In the eyes of the optometry and ophthalmology communities, the month of May is commonly known as Healthy Vision Month – 31 days dedicated to raising awareness and educating families about eye health and eye diseases.
But one month is not enough to drive the message home.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, an estimated 37 million American adults suffer from conditions that include age-related macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic retinopathy, or glaucoma. The proliferation of these diseases means that “eye education” and the lessons taught in the month of May should be applied year-round.
Here are four ways to make every month Healthy Vision Month and preserve your eyesight for years to come.
1. Start an Eye-Healthy Diet and Exercise Regimen
One doesn’t normally focus on vision as the catalyst for making changes in the kitchen, but an eye-healthy diet – with much more variety than carrots – is essential to reducing your risk of eye problems.
“Carrots are great for beta-carotene, there’s no doubt,” says Las Vegas optometrist Dr. Vivienne Velasco of iFocus Vision Center. “But you can make entire meals out of eye-healthy foods with essential nutrients, such as fish (Omega-3 fatty acids), leafy greens (Lutein), eggs (Vitamin A), and nuts (Vitamin E).”
Diet and exercise often go hand-in-hand for people looking to stay in shape and feel healthy, and the benefits go far beyond what you see on the scale. A healthy lifestyle that reduces your risk of diabetes can also reduce your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, a leading cause of vision loss and impairment for diabetics.
2. Wear Sunglasses, Even On Cloudy Days
“UV light can be hazardous to your vision at any time of the day,” Dr. Velasco explains. That’s why she encourages patients to wear sunglasses, “365, even on cloudy days.”
In Las Vegas, where Dr. Velasco practices, sunglasses are a wardrobe staple. However, when the cloudier, winter months arrive, some people may feel there’s less of a need to keep their eyes covered when they venture outside.
This would be a mistake, Dr. Velasco says. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays can increase your risk of developing macular degeneration or cataracts in the eyes. Additionally, Dr. Velasco urges parents to put sunglasses on their children whenever they go out in daylight, as their eyes are more susceptible to UV damage.
3. Give Your Eyes a Rest From Your Screen
From computers to phones to tablets, it seems there’s no escape from our screens. Unfortunately, prolonged exposure to your screen can lead to a condition known as Computer Vision Syndrome, which carries such ailments as headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and pain in the neck or back.
This is why the “20-20-20 Rule” was invented, to encourage people to take 20 second breaks from their screens every 20 minutes and focus on something 20 feet away.
“It’s harder than ever to put our screens down, but taking a break goes a long way to keeping your eyes healthy,” Dr. Velasco says. “Adults should observe the ‘20-20-20 rule’ while setting limits on screen time for their kids.”
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children between the ages of 2 and 5 should be limited to one hour of screen time per day.
“Also, no phones during meals, so put them away during breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” Dr. Velasco adds.
4. Schedule Your Annual Comprehensive Eye Exam
Just like the tips mentioned above, you should make a habit of seeing your eye care specialist, and Dr. Velasco urges all patients to have a comprehensive eye exam every year.
When you know your eye exam is on the calendar, you’ll be better prepared with questions and concerns that your doctor should hear.
“A lot can change in one year,” explains Dr. Velasco. “An annual dilated eye exam will tell us about the health of a patient’s eye, whether changes need to be made to a prescription, and we can also take preventative steps to preserve a patient’s vision.
“Eye diseases may be present without any symptoms, that’s why it’s so important to see your eye doctor annually, not just when there’s something wrong with your eyesight.”
Dr. Velasco is always accepting new patients. You can schedule your appointment with iFocus Vision Center online or by calling 702-473-5660.