March is Save Your Vision Month and although Low Vision Restoration works exclusively with low vision patients that have vision loss, it aligns with our commitment for everyone to live the fullest with the best vision and address the top things that one can do to save their vision while they still have it.
Aging, after all, is not the only factor for vision loss. Genetics plays a part as do other things that a person cannot control. Here are the things that you can control.
Maintain a Healthy Weight and Get Regular Exercise
I’m sure you’ve heard this your entire life and you are probably sick of it by now. The fact remains, however, that this cannot be overstressed. When you are overweight and your body is stressed, that includes your eyes and the brain. They work in conjunction, enabling the best possible vision.
Ok, here’s another thing that you probably have heard before. And again, it can’t be stressed enough. Smoking affects not only the external parts of your eyes but also impacts your vision through the bloodstream. As if that isn’t bad enough, cigarette smoke toxins cause cerebral lesions that impact the area of the brain that processes vision. Smoking has been shown to contribute to age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, uveitis, retinal detachment, and dry eye syndrome. Second-hand smoke has also been shown to impact children and unborn children. It can lead to premature birth, retinitis, strabismus (crossed eyes), and underdevelopment of the optic nerve- a leading cause of blindness in children.
Eat the Right Foods
Yet another thing you’ve probably heard your entire life- and for good reason. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) in 2001 and 2013 clearly demonstrate that nutrients found in certain whole foods can reduce vision loss due to aging by up to 25%. The key nutrients that were identified for eye health are lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc, copper, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids. An easy way to approach getting these nutrients is to both eat a colorful diet and follow the Mediterranean diet. And don’t forget to drink lots of water!
If you choose to supplement your diet with a multivitamin, there are vision-specific ones that contain lutein and zeaxanthin that specifically do not have beta carotene. (REFERENCE) That is what you want to look for.
There are also foods that increase your risk for eye disease. The main factor in the foods in this category is that they contribute to constricting blood flow to the eyes. Basically, you want to avoid foods that are high in fat and or sodium and foods that are highly processed.
Prevent Exposure to Ultraviolet Rays and Blue Light
Do you know your corneas can get sunburnt and that snow blindness is just another form of that? Both of these things are damage from UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C rays from the sun (direct and by reflection.) 20% of cataract cases are UV ray related and 3.2 million people go blind every year due to UV rays. It is also a contributing factor in macular degeneration and pterygium, also known as surfer’s eye, that affects surfers, skiers, fishermen, farmers, and others that spend a lot of time in the sun around rivers, oceans, and mountains.
The best way to protect your eyes from UV light is to wear proper sungear- glasses or goggles that block or absorb 99-100% of UV rays and a wide-brimmed hat. If you are a contact lens wearer, ask about UV-absorbing contacts. Lastly, avoid tanning beds.
A lot of modern technology relies on light-emitting diodes (LEDs) which emit more light in the blue spectrum than traditional lighting. This technology is used in everyday screens like televisions, computer monitors, and mobile phone screens. The existence of blue light is not a bad thing. In fact, it is necessary for early vision development, helps with some skin conditions, and positively benefits cognitive function. It’s when you are exposed to too much of it that it causes digital eye strain, sleep disturbances, and retina damage that may lead to age-related macular degeneration. Children are more susceptible to issues with blue light as their eyes absorb more blue light than an adult.
Eliminating electronic devices is not a practical solution, but reducing your screen time does help. In addition, take screen breaks every 15-20 minutes and focus your eyes on a distant object for 20 seconds. Many devices allow you to adjust the blue light on your screens to a night or dark mode and others have blue light screen filters that you can purchase.
See Your Eye Doctor Regularly
Don’t wait for a sign to see your eye doctor! Many irreversible eye conditions like glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and dry eye start with no symptoms. In fact, 26% of people ages 19 and up have an asymptomatic ocular condition. It makes sense that you would want your eye issue(s) to be detected at its earliest stage when it could possibly be treatable. Your regular eye exam can also shed light on other health conditions like diabetes, lupus, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. There are many factors that contribute to how often you should get your eyes checked like age, family genetics, medications that you are on, and whether you have an eye issue that needs regular monitoring. Talk to your regular eye doctor for a schedule that makes sense for you. And then stick to it.
As a low vision doctor, we believe that There Is Life After Vision Loss because the people that we see have vision that cannot be fully restored. Some people even call us the “see better doctor” not the see perfect doctor. Regardless of whether you have 20/20 vision or have a vision-limiting condition, we promise that not only will these 5 things help your vision, but they will also contribute to better health overall.