Amit Chokshi, MD on the WJCT Weekend Warrior: Sports & Eye Injuries
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
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Tips for Your Eye Health at Any Age
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
The Age-Related Eye Diseases Study (AREDS), funded by the National Eye Institute, and other research confirms that foods rich in vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA are good for eye health as well as general health. Sources for these nutrients include citrus fruits, vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains, dark green leafy vegetables and cold water fish. These nutrients are linked to lower risk for age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), cataract, and dry eye later in life.
It’s great to help kids learn healthy eating habits because it sets a pattern they’re likely to stick to their entire lives. But choosing healthier foods is a good thing no matter when we begin. People who have diabetes or AMD, or are at risk for these diseases, can also benefit by following a low-glycemic (low-GI) index diet. Most people with diabetes, and others who have used a low-GI diet to lose weight, are familiar with glycemic index charts. The GI value is based on how fast a food’s carbohydrates raise the body’s blood sugar levels; low GI foods have less impact on blood sugar fluctuations.
People with AMD may be able to slow the progression of the disease by taking a special nutrient supplement called the AREDS formula. People who smoke should ask their physician before taking this supplement, because one of the ingredients has been associated with a higher risk of lung cancer in smokers. An alternate version of the supplement formulated to be safe for smokers is available. Your Eye M.D.s can give you more information on this option.
Our eyes need good blood circulation and oxygen intake, and both are stimulated by regular exercise. Regular exercise also helps keep our weight in the normal range, which reduces the risk of diabetes and of diabetic retinopathy. Seniors can pursue gentler exercises including walking, yoga, tai chi, or stretching and breathing. Remember to use proper sun safety and protective eye wear when enjoying sports and recreation.
As we sleep, the eyes enjoy continuous lubrication, which helps reverse the dry, scratchy, irritated sensations that can result from too many hours on the computer (WMV 17M). Also during sleep the eyes clear out irritants such as dust, allergens, or smoke that may have accumulated during the day.
Some research suggests that light-sensitive cells in the eye are important to our ability to regulate our wake-sleep cycles. This becomes more crucial as we age, when more people have problems with insomnia. While it’s important that we protect our eyes from over-exposure to UV light, our eyes also need exposure to some natural light every day to help maintain normal sleep-wake cycles.
Work or college often demands that we spend long hours in front of computers, PDA's and other digital-screen devices. This can lead to dry, tired eyes. Though extended computer use won’t damage the eyes, the following tips will help you avoid discomfort or dry eye syndrome:
- The 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, turn your eyes away from the computer screen to an object at least 20 feet away, and gaze at it for at least 20 seconds.
- Blink!: Studies show people blink about half as often as normal when using the computer. Put a note on your digital screen to remind yourself. Blinking is essential to the eye remaining moist and to removing dust and other irritants.
- Take breaks: Once an hour, leave your computer for a brief walk or stretch.
- Take a break from your contact lenses: If wearing contact lenses makes your eyes feel dry during extended work or study on the computer (WMV 17M), wear eyeglasses all or part of the time. Also, getting enough sleep (and never sleeping in contact lenses) will help your eyes stay hydrated.
By protecting your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, you can reduce your risks for some minor and serious eye problems. Make sure your sunglasses block 100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays. UV damage adds up over time, so the sooner you begin protecting your eyes, the better. Doing so may reduce your risks for pterygium (a benign growth), cataract, age related macular degeneration, and uveal cancer (similar to skin cancer).
Smoking increases risks for cataract and may speed cataract progression, as well as for cardiovascular diseases that indirectly influence our eyes’ health. Smoking increases the risk of severe vision loss in those with AMD. Avoiding smoking, or quitting, is one of the best investments you can make in your long-term health. Smokers actually reduce their risks by quitting.
Last reviewed and updated in August, 2009,
by the American Academy of Ophthalmology