We depend on our eyes. And we ask a lot of them. But we don’t always do what’s best for them.
We spend too much time using digital tools like cell phones and computers. We binge watch TV shows or spend hours reading our favorite books. And if we wear contact lenses, we don’t always realize we’re putting our eyesight in danger by not wearing and caring for our lenses the right way.
“Even though most people recognize how precious sight is, many are not taking the necessary steps to have optimal vision and to protect their eye health,” said Dr. Samuel Pierce, president of the American Optometric Association (AOA).
Take These Three Steps to Protect Your Eyes
Avoiding eye strain, treating dry eye, and correctly using and caring for contacts are three important steps to having healthy eyes and avoiding vision problems.
1. Avoid Eye Strain
According to the AOA, the average American spends seven hours on digital gadgets each day. That causes overexposure to blue light. Blue light can cause digital eye strain, which can lead to sleep issues and even eyesight problems for some people.
The most common warning signs of digital eye strain are headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, neck and shoulder pain, and eye irritation.
One simple tip to ward off eye strain: Use the “20-20-20” rule. Take a 20-second break every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away. These short breaks help relieve the eyes.
Next, remember to blink! It sounds simple, and it is. Often blinking your eyes will lower your chances of having eye problems from staring at a computer, cellphone or other screen.
2. Treat Dry Eye
Millions of people have dry eye. Along with a scratchy feeling, other signs are eyes that sting, burn, turn red or tear up a lot. Some medicines can cause dry eye, as can some health problems.
Ask your doctor if your dry eyes could be the result of a different health issue that needs to be treated. Check to see if medicines you’re taking are causing it and if you can switch to a different one. Ask if using over-the-counter eye drops that are like man-made tears could help.
Taking a break on your screen time might also help. Wearing wrap-around sunglasses outdoors can help block wind and dry air, which can make dry eyes worse. And a warm washcloth on your eyelids may ease the irritation.
3. Take Care of Your Contacts
Many people of all ages wear contact lenses to fix their eyesight. But many wear their lenses too long at a time or don’t follow the safe cleaning rules. That can put your eye health at risk.
Contact lens-related eye infections can lead to eye damage. Even minor infections can be painful. But those problems are often preventable. Parents especially need to take care because many children do not follow the recommended safety steps, says the Food and Drug Administration.
These common care mistakes can raise the chance of infection:
- Failing to clean or store your lenses the right way
- Sleeping in some lenses
- Showering in your lenses
- Swimming in your lenses
Be sure to wear and care for your contacts properly to keep your eyes healthy.
More Ways to Help Your Eyes
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers these tips:
- Get routine eye exams.
- Eat a healthy diet and keep a healthy weight.
- Know your family’s eye health history.
- Wear sunglasses that block the sun’s UV-A and UV-B rays.
- Don’t smoke.
Take steps to protect your eyes.
Your eyes are too important to neglect. Get regular exams and try the tips above to take good care of them.
Sources: Healthy Vision and Contact Lenses, American Optometric Association; What to Know if Your Child Wants Contact Lenses, Food and Drug Administration, 2017; Facts about Dry Eye, National Eye Institute, 2017; Keep an Eye on Your Vision Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018; Frequently Asked Questions, The Vision Council, 2018; Eye Exams 101, American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2012