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Tuesday, November 10, 2009  
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Valuing Your Vision
Donít overlook your eyes when it comes to staying healthy.

In todayís digital world, itís easy to take your eyes for granted. From televisions to computers, video games to highly evolved cell phones, we spend countless hours per day exercising Ė and exhausting Ė two of our most precious assets.

Whether you can boast 20/20 vision or rely on corrective lenses, eye care is equally important and often ignored. As we age, our eyes undergo many changes that can come with a long list of complications for our bodies, so keeping your vision sharp is a must. Fortunately, there are simple, easy ways to maintain healthy eyes.

Take a break from brightness: Youíve heard that reading under dim light causes eyestrain, but the reverse is just as true. Extremely bright lights, like the illumination found on computer monitors, can be too harsh for long-term use.  Although the colors wonít be as vibrant, reducing the brightness on your monitor will help alleviate unnecessary strain. If your eyes still feel tired after a day on the computer, consider this: On average, the eye blinks at least 25 percent less than normal when focusing on a computer screen. Take a break every so often and close your eyes for five seconds, then turn away and focus on a distant object.

The other source of too-bright light is completely natural. UV rays can lead to cataracts, photokeratitis, snow blindness (a type of sunburn within the eye) and even certain kinds of eye cancer. Just as experts recommend applying sunscreen even during winter months, sunglasses should be worn all year. So whether youíre off to the beach or hitting the slopes, make sure youíre not only wearing some specs, but also check for a label that guarantees UV blockage.

Eat right for your sight: Research has shown that vitamin A deficiency is a major cause of childhood blindness (itís no wonder mom was always telling you to eat your carrots). By upping your vitamin A intake with orange foods like papaya, pumpkins and more, youíll not only have better night vision, but you can also help yourself avoid dry eyes and corneal ulcers. Another imperative nutrient is vitamin E, a powerful anti-oxidant for eyes. Vitamin E helps prevent cataracts and acts as an anti-carcinogen, so stock up on nuts and leafy greens!

Donít skip your annual optometric visit: Even if your eyesight seems to be just fine, a yearly visit to an optometrist is always a good idea. A doctor can look behind the eye to examine the health of your retina Ė a multi-layered sensory tissue that lines the back of the eye. If the retina tears (which can happen without exterior trauma to the eye and without any symptoms), it often must be repaired to prevent it from detaching. Other conditions, like diabetes and high blood pressure, can cause easily detected changes in the eyes long before any other symptoms are experienced. If you do rely on glasses or contact lenses, itís important to make sure your prescription is updated annually. Wearing outdated lenses can cause headaches, eyestrain and even more serious damage. Contact lenses also need to be updated regularly. Many older brands of contacts do not allow enough oxygen to reach the eye. Your doctor can recommend and prescribe new lenses that are healthier.

Eyesight and eye health can change unexpectedly for a variety of reasons.  Fortunately, small steps can make a big difference in keeping your peepers looking and feeling sharp Ė both inside and out. You only get one pair, so it pays to take good care!


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