Vision is one of the primary senses humans use to interact with and learn about the world. It is also the main tool used in most jobs worldwide. In addition, our lives increasingly happen through digital screens, creating an even higher risk of overworking the eyes.
There are a number of steps you can take to care for your eyes. To reduce the risk of eye diseases and the deterioration of your vision, prioritize your overall health and well-being, specifically the health of your eyes.
The most common eye-related issues include nearsightedness (an inability to focus on distant objects), farsightedness (an inability to focus on objects near you, which often grows worse with age), astigmatism (blurriness due to a curved cornea) and conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye). Various other eye diseases and infections can also occur. Many of them are related to one’s general lifestyle.
The main symptoms of eye-related issues include:
Even though many of these symptoms seem obvious, people often ignore milder eye problems, assigning blame to tiredness and stress, only to find out later at a routine check-up that their eyesight has deteriorated.
Genetics plays an important role in determining your eye health. Two people living very similar lifestyles will have different levels of eye strength depending on their genes. If there is a history of bad eyesight in your family, be extra careful not to strain your eyes too much. Nevertheless, with the amount of time we now commonly spend using various screens, it is safe to say that everyone should have their eyes checked regularly.
The safety of your eyes should be a priority and there are many helpful practices that you can incorporate into your daily routines.
Wear sunglasses to avoid the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) light outside. Sunglasses are needed outside all year long, not just in summer, as UV light is always present in sunlight and can damage the surface of your eyes, as well as the inside structures.
Make sure that the sunglasses you wear are produced by a reputable manufacturer and provide sufficient protection against UV rays. Optimal protection comes from sunglasses that block (or absorb) 99—100% of UV light, sometimes labeled as absorbing up to 400 nm of UV light.
Sunglasses do not, however, provide enough protection from stronger sources of light and heat, for example, when welding or observing a solar eclipse. Always use protective glasses when needed, for example when working with chemicals, in strong light, or with small flying particles. Similarly, protect your eyes when riding a motorcycle, diving, and doing other extreme sports; wear a helmet, as head injuries can also cause damage to your eyesight.
To further protect your eyes, be careful of what you put near your eyes. Read the expiration dates on eye make-up such as mascara, eye shadow, and eyeliner, and choose products of a good general quality. Wash your make-up brushes regularly.
Proper hygiene is key. It is too easy to drop your mascara tube or contact lens container in the bottom of your bag along with old receipts, snacks, and keys, but you don’t exactly want to put all that in your eyes. Likewise, swimming in polluted water or using another person’s towel are typical causes of eye infections.
The design of your every-day living and working spaces should be adapted to support your eyes. Ergonomic positioning of your working space, lighting, and the computer can significantly reduce eyestrain.
Your computer screen should be large enough not to unnecessarily tax the eyes as you try to read small letters. Place the screen directly in front of you with the top of the screen slightly below eye level. To understand the importance of proper placement, try this experiment: Look up to the ceiling and imagine having your screen there when working. Whenever you are working with eyes raised you are placing them under a similar strain, just on a smaller level.
The computer screen should be approximately 16–24 inches (approx. 40–60 cm) from your face. Sit up straight in your chair, place your feet firmly on the floor with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Be careful not to lean your head and neck forward and don’t slouch. Not only does a forward head posture lead to back pain, it also causes unnecessary stress on your eyes.
Proper lighting—when reading and writing physical text, position your light source to the side of your non-dominant hand in such a way that there is no glare on your computer screen or glow directly into your eyes. The general lighting in your workroom should be neither too dim nor too bright, and you should be able to adjust the lighting as the natural light outside changes during the course of the day.
Even though direct sunlight is not good for the eyes and sunglasses are highly recommended, regular exposure to natural outside light (without sunglasses) is essential for both your eyesight and general well-being. The brightest office lights tend to be no more than 800 lux (international measurement of light levels), whereas even on a cloudy day, the light outside can be anywhere between 1 000 and 10 000 lux, ensuring a better circadian rhythm for your body and training your eyes to adapt and see further.
Blue-light blocking glasses are a popular choice for people who do their work on a computer. Research shows that blocking blue-light can reduce insomnia and improve your circadian rhythm. Some people also claim that these glasses help reduce eye tension. However, there is no substantial evidence that the use of blue-light glasses will help protect your eyesight in the long term. When you look at a screen for longer periods of time your eyes will get tired with or without protection.
The 20-20-20 rule is a famous method of resting your eyes when working: every 20 minutes look at least 20 feet away from you for at least 20 seconds. Most modern people, especially those who live in cities, don’t look into the distance often enough. Try it and notice how your eyes relax. Similarly, take a 15-minute break away from all screens at least once every two hours.
Some other eye exercises you can do to help your eyesight:
Visit the optometrist regularly and ophthalmologist when needed
As mentioned above, the demands of the modern world are increasingly hard on our eyes. For this reason, we should all be attentive to early signs of eye strain and have our eyes checked regularly.
Update your glasses as needed. Don’t wait too long to get a new prescription as outdated glasses place an unnecessary amount of stress on your eyes, potentially leading to headaches and dizziness.
LASIK eye surgery is a safe method for fixing bad eyesight, but it does not work for everyone. Individual health, the shape of the eyeball, eye pressure, and other qualities determine whether or not the procedure can work for you. The effects of this eye surgery can also fade over time, especially if no lifestyle changes are made afterwards.
As with other aspects of our bodies, eye health is directly dependent on our general well-being. Adequate sleep, an active lifestyle that includes sufficient exercise, a healthy diet, and moderate stress levels all contribute to the health of your eyes.
If your whole body is tense, your eyes will be too. If you are dehydrated, your eyes will also be dry. Pay attention to your stress levels, drink plenty of water, and humidify the air in your office and living spaces. Eat a balanced and healthy diet that includes leafy green vegetables, and foods rich in antioxidants and Omega-3 acids.
Taking good care of your eyes means taking good care of yourself!
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