20 Tips for Optimal Eye Health

Most of us are well aware of the five senses bestowed to us through which we interact with our environment, i.e. vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch, right? But how many of you have ever really wondered which of these is considered as the most valuable.

Sure, each of these senses is invaluable in its own right, but vision is considered to be the most important of all, as it is used to perceive about 80% of all impressions.

So, now you're getting a better idea of why you should tend to your eye health much more seriously, and if not, it's going to hurt your pocket as well. Wait a minute, did I just say 'your pocket'? Let me get it right, it hurts 'our' pockets!

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Wondering how? Let me refer you to a study titled 'The Economic Burden of Vision Loss and Eye Disorders in the United States', according to which vision problems cost the US government about $139 billion annually.

 

 Source: The Economic Burden of Vision Loss and Eye Disorders in the United States

In fact, neglecting eye care not only affects you financially, it also affects your quality of life. One in six American adults (aged 45 and above) suffer from one or the other type of eye problems and the risks associated with vision loss only grow as you age. According to estimates by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), by 2020, 43 million plus Americans will be affected by age-related eye diseases.

If eye problems like cataract, low vision, macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy make you cringe, you better protect your eyesight, because a little eye care now will go a long way in maintaining your eyesight in later years of your life. One of the best ways is to follow these 10 tips for optimal eye health.    

1.         Healthy Diet Healthy Eyesight

Yes, it starts as simple as that; you are what you eat and so is your eyesight. Foods rich in nutrients like vitamin C and E, zinc, lutein and omega-3 fatty acids strengthen your eyes against age-related eye problems like cataracts and macular degeneration. Some great foods for eye health include:

Vegetables: Leafy green veggies like spinach, collards and kale

Fish: Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel

Fruits: Citrus fruits like lemons, grapefruits and oranges

Nonmeat protein sources: Eggs, nuts and beans

2.         Quit Smoking

Haven't been able to quit smoking yet? Need some added motivation? What about not getting cataracts, macular degeneration and uveitis (in addition to various other health issues)? Research suggest that the likelihood of smokers getting affected from these debilitating eye conditions increases twice to thrice. So, here is to those of you who like their eyesight more than a cigarette.  

3.         Shades are Helpful

If you considered sunglasses a mere fashion accessory, think again. A right pair of shades can help you stay away from cataracts, macular degeneration and pinguecula by blocking out sun's harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays. A good pair of UV protection sunglasses can block 99 - 100% of harmful UV rays. In case you are wondering, UV protection contact lenses are also available.

4.         Don't Underestimate the Power of Protective Eyewear

Safety glasses are highly recommended if you are exposed to some sort of hazardous airborne materials at job or even at home. Not only that, resort to protective glasses if you are into sports like ice hockey, lacrosse or squash/racquetball.

5.         Avoid Excessive Exposure to Computer Screens

In addition to causing neck, back and shoulder pain, staring too long at a computer/phone screen can affect your eye health severely. Some of the eye problems you can get from excessive exposure to computer/phone screens include:

·       Eyestrain

·       Dry eyes

·       Blurry vision

·       Long distance focus issues

Some protective measures include:

·       Updating your glasses or contacts prescription for screen exposure

·       Seeking proper medical care in case of prolonged eyestrain and considering computer glasses for computer use

·       Choosing a comfortable supportive chair and positioning it where your feet lie flat on the floor

·       Blinking more if your eyes dry up

·       Following 20-20-20 rule where you rest your eyes every 20 minutes by looking 20 feet away for 20 seconds continuously

·       Taking 15-minutes breaks every 2 hours and getting up from your chair is also recommended

6.         Incorporate Blinking Breaks

Don't only blame computers and phone screens for eyestrain. Books and written documents can also cause eyestrain when looked upon for extended periods. So, make sure to get your head up, look away from the docs and just blink your eyes for a few seconds to relieve the strain. 

7.         Consult Eye Doctor Regularly

Never undermine the significance of a regular eye exam. Your eyes need specialized care because they are one of the most sophisticated organs in your body. Spotting eye diseases like glaucoma is quite challenging. Only an eye specialist will be able to do so appropriately using  the required knowledge, experience, tools and techniques. Experts recommend having a comprehensive eye exam at least once every two years. Some of the essential components of a comprehensive eye exam might include:

·       Vision tests to determine farsightedness/nearsightedness, presbyopia (changes in vision due to aging process), astigmatism (blurred vision caused by a curved cornea)

·       Tests to determine coordination between both eyes

·       Optic nerve and eye pressure tests to spot glaucoma

·       Microscopic and external eye examination before and after dilation

8.         Be Vigilant about Eye Problems - Look for Signs

Periodically visiting your eye doctor is a great routine to follow, but don't rely solely on that; it's your eye health on stake. Be vigilant about your eyesight and keep looking for any changes in your vision. Some red flags to look for include:

·       Hazy vision

·       Double vision

·       Problem seeing in low light conditions

·       Red eyes for prolong time periods

·       Constant eye pain and swelling

·       Floaters

·       Frequent flashes of light

If any of these signs and symptoms prevail, consult your eye doctor immediately for detailed investigation into the matter.

9.         Consider Your Family Health History

Of all other factors, you might also be simply unlucky to get an unwanted eye ailment, because many eye diseases cluster in families. For instance, a family history of high blood pressure or diabetes means increased risk of suffering from an eye disease. So, take your family's eye diseases' history seriously and discuss it with your eye doctor in order to avoid becoming another unsuspecting victim.  

10.       Fresh Air

The benefits of fresh air shall not be confined to lungs and heart. Fresh air directly supplies oxygen to the corneas in your eyes, because they lack their own oxygen supply mechanism. So, make sure to let your eyes soak in as much of fresh air as possible.

11.       Avoid Rubbing Your Eyes

Oddly enough, a huge majority of people seem to be nurturing the habit of rubbing their eyes every other minute. For many of them, eye-rubbing turns into an irritating habit, which is quite damaging for eye health. You need to realize that most of the times your hands are covered with a host of germs responsible for different types of diseases and infections. So, it's better if you get rid of this unhealthy habit, but if you can't, make sure to keep your hands as clean as possible. You can use anything from soaps to sanitizers, just keep them clean if you can't stop rubbing them over your eyes.

12.       Stick to Quality Products If Eye Makeup is Your Thing

The truth is that rubbing disease-laden hands over your eyes is not the only way to harm them, eye makeup can serve the purpose as well, especially if you are not quality conscious. Harmful bacteria can thrive in a lot of unlikely places, including the mascara you wear and the tips of liner pencils you use to beautify your eyes with. Don't stick with the same mascara tube for more than 3 months and don't forget to sharpen the tips of your favorite liner pencils. Always prefer quality brands when buying eye makeup to sustain and enjoy healthy eyes as long as possible.

13.       Be Careful About Your Contacts

Of course, I'm not talking about contacts saved in your phone's contact list, it's your contact lenses that you need to be extra careful about. If you believe you are already taking good care of your contacts, think again, because a study conducted by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas revealed that about 85% users of contact lenses wrongly believe that they are careful enough with their contacts. Only 2% of them actually fulfilled the requisites. So, follow the prescription guidelines thoroughly when handling your contacts instead of (supposedly) cleaning them with everything from saliva to tap water or baby oil if you want to keep your eyes as healthy and disease free as possible.

14.       Worry about Your Eye Health More than Your Health Insurance Covering Eye Exams

There's no denying how hard it is to manage your finances, but it seems nothing compared to managing with vision impairment or vision loss. Contrary to popular belief, you can get your eyes screened even with regular health insurance if you have a family history of an increased risk factor for diseases like glaucoma. Moreover, there are not-for-profit organizations as well, which provide eye exams and other sorts of eye care facilities to those who qualify. Trying them is still better than repenting over why you didn't do that in time  

15.       Avoid Dry Air

Cozying up your home through winter might also be an unlikely culprit if dry eyes have been bugging you of late. A humidifier can be of great assistance in such scenarios, adding some much needed moisture to help your eyes stay hydrated.

16.       Stay Hydrated

Talking of dry eyes, dehydration can also lead to it. Human body relies heavily on water to function smoothly. If you are not conscious about fluid level in your body, tear production in your eyes is also affected amongst a myriad of other complications, which results in dry eyes. Simply, stay hydrated to keep your eyes out of trouble.

17.       Sleep Well

Your eyes can also get into trouble if you are in a habit of skipping sleep regularly. Adequate sleep ensures that your eyes are well rested and strain free.

18.       Sharing Your Towel is Not a Good Idea  

Being generous is one thing and sharing your towel is a totally different one. It's more like choosing between the two, because sharing face towels and washers means getting your eyes vulnerable to contagious eye infections like conjunctivitis (or pinkeye).

19.       Avoid Excessive Coffee Consumption

To be honest, that hurt me the most as well, but I still prefer healthy eyes. If the thought of a steamy cup in front of you every afternoon is too strong to resist, try replacing coffee with green tea. In addition to fulfilling your body's fluid requirements, green tea is known to be a great source of catechins, which along with other antioxidants (like vitamin C, vitamin E, zeaxanthin and lutein) help eyes fight against various eye problems including cataracts and AMD.   

20.       The Sooner the Better

Timing is of undeniable significance when it comes to treating most serious eye conditions like AMD and glaucoma. The sooner they get diagnosed, the higher is the probability of treating them successfully. So, start consulting your eye doctor regularly before it's too late.

 

 Infographic-20 Tips for Optimal Eye Health

Infographic-20 Tips for Optimal Eye Health

Macular degeneration - Most frequently asked questions

Macular degeneration is an eye disease - causing vision loss to more than 10 million Americans!

 
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A Breakdown of the term Macular degeneration - Macular relates to the macula of the eye- it is that part of the retina which is responsible for a sharp vision while degeneration means - losing the original form over time, due to any reason.

So by definition, Macular degeneration is an eye disease that causes the degeneration of the macula over time.

Macula is the central portion of the retina and controls our ability to read, drive a car, recognize faces and colors and see objects in fine detail. When the macula is damaged or starts to deteriorate, what we see are blurred images of the world around us or images with missing detail.

In early stages, macular degeneration does not affect vision but as it progresses, people experience wavy or blurred vision, and, if the condition continues to worsen, central vision may be completely lost. People with very advanced macular degeneration are considered legally blind. Even so, because the rest of the retina is still working, they retain their peripheral vision, which is not as clear as central vision.

At present, Macular Degeneration is considered an incurable eye disease.

With so many people effected by macular degeneration, there are so many unanswered questions. Here are the most frequently asked questions on macular degeneration.

Macular degeneration - FAQ

Can you reverse macular degeneration?

Yes, there are some treatment options that can help in reversing macular degeneration like injections in the eyes. But reversal can only help as much as stopping further degeneration of the macula.

Is age related macular degeneration the same as macular degeneration?

Yes, they are both same things, because this disease develops as the person ages its is often referred to as age related macular degeneration

What are the types of age-related macular degeneration?

There are two types : wet macular degeneration and dry macular degeneration

Wet macular degeneration

This type of macular degeneration occurs when abnormal blood vessels start to leak blood or fluid into the macula, causing chronic vision loss in the form of blurred spots or blurry vision.

Dry macular degeneration

This type of macular degeneration occurs due to the "Dryness" or thinning of the macula. It also causes blurred or reduced central vision. Dry macular degeneration does not progress at an alarming rate, but progresses nonetheless. Once it reached the chronic or advance stage, it can not be reversed.

Can you get AMD in only one eye, or does it always occur in both?

AMD can occur in one eye only, as an initial sign of the disease showing up. However, over time, it is highly likely for a person with AMD in one eye to develop AMD in the other eye as well.

Although there is no cure, are there treatments available for AMD?

Yes, there are various treatments, you can either go for an expensive eye surgery, or get eye injections or simply opt for a low vision aid like IrisVision.

How is macular degeneration diagnosed?

There are various ways:

1) Amsler Grid test

In an eye exam, a doctor may use an Amsler grid to test for defects in the center of your vision. If you have macular degeneration, you may see blurred, faded, broken or distorted lines on the grid.

 2) Fluorescein angiography

During an eye exam, the doctor will inject a colored dye into a vein in your arm. The dye will travel to your eye and highlight the blood vessels. By using a special camera, the doctor will take various number of pictures as the dye travels through the blood vessels. The resulting images will show if there are any abnormal blood vessels present or any form of leakage.

3) Indocyanine green angiography

Similar to fluorescein angiography, in this test the doctor will also inject a dye in your vein. The colored dye might be used to confirm the findings of a fluorescein angiography or to identify specific types of macular degeneration.

4) Optical coherence tomography

This a noninvasive (involving no instruments that go in the body) imaging test. It displays detailed cross-sectional images of the retina. With this test, the doctor will find out if the retina is thinning, thickening or swelling.

5) Examination of the back of your eye

In this eye test, the doctor will put drops in your eyes to dilate them. Then use a special instrument to examine the back of your eye to identify any mottled appearance caused by drusen. Drusen is a yellow deposit that forms under the retina. People with macular degeneration often have a lot of drusen.

What is hereditary macular degeneration?

This is a type of macular degeneration that occurs because of mutated genes. Several genes are strongly associated with the risk of causing macular degeneration by medical experts. However, researchers still continue to study other gene candidates to determine their role in this disease.

Can macular degeneration cause total blindness?

Macular degeneration only effects the macula. So your peripheral vision will stay intact. Meaning, you will not go completely blind, but if your macular degeneration gets acutely worse, you will fall under 'legally blind' category.

What are the Most Common Symptoms of Macular Degeneration?

For dry macular degeneration, you might experience symptoms as:

Visual distortions like seeing straight lines as bent

Feel central vision reduced in one eye or both eyes

Needing brighter light when reading or doing up close work

Experiencing difficulty adjusting to low light conditions like entering a dim light room

Textured words might seem more blurred

Colors might seem less bright and intense

Experience difficulty in recognizing faces

With wet macular degeneration, some symptoms may be common with dry macular degeneration like seeing bent lines, reduced central vision, seeing less intense or bright colors. Symptoms specific to wet degeneration include:

A well-formed blurry or a blind spot in your field of vision

A generally hazy vision

Abrupt onset or a rapid worsening of symptoms

 

Is macular degeneration strictly an old person’s disease?

No, not necessarily. Although, AMD is more commonly found in old people, but other factors like heredity, high blood pressure, obesity, gender also play into causing macular degeneration.

How can I prevent macular degeneration or lessen the severity?

There are various prevention steps like eating a 'green diet' and omega rich (fish) diet, exercising regularly and not smoking. Basically a general healthy life style. Also, protecting  your eyes by wearing sunglasses in sunlight also helps.

On the other hand, once effected with AMD, there is no cure BUT you can continue taking above mentioned steps to slow it down. You can also take AREDs to slow down AMD

Treatment

As I mentioned previously, there is no known cure of AMD as yet but there are certain treatments that can help slow down or ease the pain.

Surgery

If diagnosed with wet AMD, having a laser surgery at an early stage might help slow the degeneration down or even stop further vision loss, but in most cases it is often very hard to tell if the surgery will do more harm then good.

Eye Injections

This is a treatment using anti VEGF drugs. They are injected in the effected eye via a thin needle to reduce the number of abnormal vessels. These drugs also slow down the leakage of fluids into the macula.

Eye supplements

Eye supplements can help with Dry AMD. Your ophthalmologist will tell you what vitamins or minerals are recommended for your dry AMD but these are found to be generally helpful

  • Vitamin C (500 mg)
  • Vitamin E (400 IU)
  • Lutein (10 mg)
  • Zeaxanthin (2 mg)
  • Zinc (80 mg)
  • Copper (2 mg)

Low vision aids

Technology in the health sector is advancing particularly fast. There are various low vision aids that can help with macular degeneration. One of them is IrisVision

Irisvision is a vision-enhancing device comprised of a Samsung Gear VR headset and a smartphone. It has superlative features like IrisBubble, which lets you see clearly without blind spots or missing visual detail, adjustable brightness settings, clinical adjustments and so much more.