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Eye care: The basics

Vision may be our most important sense, yet the importance of proper eye care is often overlooked.

Most people rely on their sense of vision around the clock, and the part of the brain dedicated to eyesight and visual processing is larger than the areas responsible for the other four senses.

Monitoring and caring for your eyes is a lifelong process that can pay off with healthy vision, disease prevention, and the early diagnosis of any eye-related conditions that may develop.

Eye care tips

Learning how to take care of your eyes is one of the first steps on a lifelong path to healthy, comfortable vision.

Try to incorporate the following eye care tips into your routine as often as you can:

  • Protect your eyes – Sunglasses with 100% UV protection safeguard your eyes from the sun’s potentially harmful ultraviolet radiation. When needed, protective eyewear offers a different type of protection — a physical barrier between your eyes and damaging objects.

  • Stay active – Exercising and moving around throughout the day can benefit your eyes and the rest of your body too. Research continues to show a possible relationship between exercise and a lower risk of developing eye conditions, such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration.

  • Eat plenty of healthy, whole foods – Proper nutrition is a big part of at-home eye care. Consuming plenty of nutrients — including omega-3s, bioflavonoids, and vitamins A, C, D and E — can reduce the risk of eye disease and keep your vision sharp.

  • Quit smoking – Smoking can damage your eyes in more ways than one. Not only are smokers twice as likely to suffer from dry eyes, they’re more at risk for sight-threatening conditions like cataracts, macular degeneration, uveitis and retinopathy.

  • Cut back on screen time – Long hours in front of a digital screen lead to eye strain and dry eyes. In children, too much screen time and not enough sunlight can increase their risk of developing high myopia later in life.

  • Stay hydrated – Drinking enough water throughout the day keeps your eyes lubricated with tears. A healthy tear film leads to more comfortable eyes and less eye strain.

  • Care for your contacts – Misusing contact lenses can lead to side effects and serious infections. If you wear contacts, follow any care guidelines provided by your lens manufacturer to limit the risk of experiencing unwelcome effects.

  • Manage whole-body conditions – Systemic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure can lead to serious eye problems when they aren’t properly managed. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a long-term condition can greatly reduce your chances of developing one of these problems.

  • Schedule an eye exam – Eye doctors play a critical role in the wellbeing of your eyes and vision. Regular eye exams allow them to spot any unusual signs as early as possible.

Eye care through eye exams

Schedule a comprehensive eye exam with an eye doctor and you’ll be taking an important step toward healthy vision.

A comprehensive eye exam is important for two reasons:

  1. It’s used to monitor how well you can see. Common conditions like nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism are usually easy to diagnose and easy to treat.

  2. It’s used to spot the signs of more concerning eye problems. If they aren’t treated, some eye problems can even damage your vision.

Optometrists perform most eye exams, but ophthalmologists can do them too. These exams are painless and don’t take much time to complete.

In some cases, a basic eye exam can catch a disease early, before it has a chance to harm your eyesight.

Glaucoma, for example, slowly leads to vision loss, but usually progresses for a long time without any symptoms. If a doctor notices high eye pressure, they can monitor the patient or refer them to an ophthalmologist for more tests.

Since glaucoma can often be managed when it’s diagnosed early on, a simple eye exam may help prevent several years’ worth of permanent vision damage.

Preparing for your exam ahead of time gives your doctor a general idea of what to look for and which questions to ask in relation to your personal eye care.

Keep in mind that an eye exam and a vision screening are not the same thing. A comprehensive eye exam checks on your eyesight and eye health, but a vision screening only examines your eyesight.

SEE RELATED: How often should I get an eye exam?

Eye care for kids

Eye care is just as important for children as it is for any other age group. In some ways, it’s even more important.

A child’s eyes develop quickly as they grow, so it’s important to diagnose any eye-related conditions early in life. Treatment is often easier, with a higher chance of success, when a doctor catches a problem before it has a chance to fully develop or progress.

The progression of myopia (nearsightedness) is a growing concern for parents around the world. If a child’s myopia turns into high myopia later in life, their risk of developing serious eye disease can go up exponentially.

However, myopia’s progression can often be slowed with early lifestyle changes and treatment, reducing the probability of high myopia in the future.

In school, about 80% of everything a child learns is absorbed visually. There are three kinds of vision problems that can affect a child’s learning:

  • Eye health and refractive errors – Common conditions such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism can all impact the way a child learns. An eye doctor should be able to prescribe corrective lenses and other forms of treatment to help your child see clearly.

  • Functional eye problems – An issue with the way the eyes align, or how they work together. These include conditions like strabismus (a misalignment of the eyes) and amblyopia (lazy eye) and can affect many other areas of a child’s daily life.

  • Problems with vision perception – Any vision-related condition that affects the way a child interprets or stores the information they see.

A pediatric optometrist or pediatric ophthalmologist — eye doctors who specializes in eye care for kids — can be valuable resources for improving a child’s vision. They will make a careful diagnosis, manage ongoing conditions and suggest further treatment, if needed.

Caring for a child’s eye health and eyesight is a critical part of their overall well-being that’s easy to overlook. Taking the time to work with doctors and to monitor your child’s visual habits from an early age can greatly increase their likelihood of enjoying healthy vision for many years to come.

READ MORE: Advanced eye care and vision care

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