PROTECT YOUR VISION
Poor vision is bad for any woman’s physical and mental health.
Seniors are particularly susceptible to accidents and falls. For women, who tend to have more fragile bones, this can lead to hip fracture. Impaired vision is also a source of social isolation, which can lead to depression.
The good news: there are several lifestyle choices women can make to reduce their risk of getting an eye disease and protect their vision. Below, find our top tips.
You may already know that smoking dramatically increases your risk of lung cancer and heart disease. It’s also been linked to several devastating eye diseases: age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, glaucoma, and Fuchs endothelial corneal dystrophy.
Eat a Healthy Diet
You’ve probably heard eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is protects you from heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. As for your eyes, studies have found that eating foods containing carotenoids and some other antioxidants appear to help protect people from getting AMD and cataracts.
Two carotenoids—lutein and zeaxanthin—are present in the retina and the lens of the eye. Scientists believe that eating foods that contain them can delay the light- and oxidative-induced damage that leads to AMD and cataracts. These compounds are found in dark green, leafy vegetables and several fruits. Lutein is also available in some dietary supplements.
A recent study showed that giving patients who already had a mild form of AMD a supplement containing a mixture of antioxidant vitamins and minerals appeared to slow the course of the disease for some of the patients. However, in many studies, supplements did not show the same beneficial effects as whole foods. These results all constitute suggestive evidence that fruits and vegetables may be good for your eye health.
Lower your risk of eye disease by eating plenty of fresh fruits (especially citrus) and green, leafy vegetables, salmon, tuna, and other oily fish. Include eggs, nuts, beans, and other nonmeat protein sources in your diet.
There is evidence that exposure of the eyes to strong sunlight for extended periods may be associated with age-related macular degeneration. Wear sunglasses and/or hats with brims when you go out in the sun.
Schedule an Eye Exam
Save your sight by scheduling comprehensive eye exams. It has been estimated that one-half of visual impairment is correctable and that one-quarter of it is preventable. How often should you see an eye doctor? The answer depends on your age, race, and general health.
Important Note: If you are experiencing decreased vision, eye pain, excessive drainage from the eye, or double-vision, contact an eye care professional immediately.
Children and Young Adults
A vision screening can be performed by your child’s pediatrician to identify problems that could lead to visual impairment so that a referral can be made to an eye care professional (an optometrist or ophthalmologist). Eye care professionals and pediatricians recommend a vision screening at the following age ranges: Newborn to 6 Months; 6 Months to 3-1/2 Years; 3-1/2 to 5 Years; 5 Years and up. Early detection is the key to correcting many vision problems as well as preventing frustration for your child. Young adults need to see an eye care professional only if they have a problem – such as the need for eyeglasses, an eye injury, or a change in vision.
Adults (40-60 years old)
Even if you are a healthy adult, you should get a comprehensive eye examination from an eye care professional at or around age 40. Your initial exam will establish a baseline for your eyes that will help monitor your sight in the future. The doctor should examine your eyes through dilated (wide open) pupils. After that, get follow-up checkups from an eye care professional every 2 to 4 years until age 60.
Seniors (60+ years old)
If you are over 60, get a thorough eye exam through dilated pupils, at least every two years, even if you are symptom-free and at low risk. The reason is that as people age, they have an ever-increasing risk for getting major, blinding eye diseases: cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration. Noticing the early signs of these diseases, especially glaucoma, is key to treating many eye diseases.
Other Factors to Consider
If you have a family history of eye disease, you should visit an eye care professional regularly. If you have other health problems, especially diabetes or any of the autoimmune diseases, you should be under the care of an eye doctor.
Know Your Family Health History
While there isn’t much you can do about your genetic makeup, you can protect yourself from the major eye diseases that you may be prone to because of your family’s health history. If you know that an eye disease runs in your family, or that you have a close relative who has it, make sure your eye-care professional checks for early signs of the disease at your next visit. Often something can be done to prevent or slow the disease. This is particularly true for glaucoma, which has no warning signs and does its damage silently. African-Americans, for yet uncompletely understood reasons, are particularly susceptible to glaucoma. It’s recommended this group get eye checkups through dilated pupils, at least every two years, starting at age 40. The damage from glaucoma is mostly avoidable if the disease is noticed early.
Many of the less-common eye diseases, such as retinitis pigmentosa and juvenile macular degeneration, are inherited. If any of these conditions run in your family, you should get your eyes and those of your children tested early.
Guard Against Eye Trauma
More than one million people per year suffer eye injury; 90 percent of these injuries are preventable.
What are the high-risk activities?
Eye trauma from sports and recreation is widespread, for example, in hockey, basketball, baseball, soccer, and archery.
Any activity involving missiles or projectiles is a high-risk activity.
Chemicals, tools, toys, and even fingernails can cause serious eye injury.
Protect yourself from eye injuries:
Store household chemicals, including cleaners, paints, and fertilizers safely: keep them locked and out of reach of small children. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling all chemicals.
Wear eye protection (eyeglasses or goggles) when working with any chemicals.
Wear safety goggles when fixing things around the house, such as when working with metal and tools and when using sharp tools such as a hammer, screwdriver, or drill. Also, wear them when gardening with power tools like mowing the lawn or trimming the bushes.
Use guards on all power tools.
Point spray cans and champagne bottles away from your face.
What About Eye Strain?
Although time in front of a computer has not been shown to injure your eyes, you may feel fatigue, neck strain, headache or sorenes.
Improve your screen time by using a good posture while sitting on a computer, and using artificial tears to reduce dry eye symptoms that worsen by reduce blinking that occurs when reading, It also reduce air flow that may enhance evaporation.
Be Careful With Eye Makeup
Eyelids and eyelashes may be the perfect canvases for makeup, but their real function is protection. Together, they help lubricate your eyes and keep foreign particles out—as much as possible.
The fact is, eye makeup can migrate into your eyes, and dead skin cells and bacteria can gather on your eyelids and lashes and wreak havoc with eye health. Think pink eye, infections, sties, and herpes, for example.
Eyelashes naturally have bacteria on them. As soon as you use a makeup brush on the eyelashes or eyelids, the brush is contaminated. Over time, the contaminated brush leads to a buildup of bacteria in the cosmetics container. This multiplies the chance for an eye infection or an allergic reaction every time you use the product.
Here’s how to stay safe:
- Keep your brushes and eyelash curler clean. Deep clean with mild soap, thoroughly rinse, and air dry every week. It’s also a good idea to do a quick spot-clean with rubbing alcohol every day.
- Never, ever share makeup—that’s a quick route to spreading bacteria.
- Replace eye makeup every three months. If you do get an eye infection, be sure to replace all the makeup you were using—even if it’s new.
- Sharpen your eyeliner pencil to keep it more precise and to remove any buildup on the pencil tip.
- Don’t spit into eye cosmetics. The bacteria in your mouth can grow in the cosmetic and cause an infection later on.
- Store makeup in a dry place at room temperature—not in a steamy bathroom or a hot car, as extreme temperatures can break down preservatives in makeup (preservatives intended to prevent bacterial growth).
- Never apply makeup in a moving vehicle: you can scratch your cornea, or worse.
- Finally, remove all of your eye makeup every night. Consider cleaning eyelashes and lids with eyelid “scrubs,” found at most drugstores. Eyelid scrubs help assure that you are getting rid of debris, oils, and build-up of tissue/oils around the lashes and bacteria around the eyelids.
Recognize the Six Symptoms of Eye Disease
1. Decreased vision: Difficulty seeing while reading, watching TV, driving, at work, or during recreation
- Loss of peripheral or central vision
- A curtain or veil coming over vision
- Difficulty seeing to the side (for example, when changing lanes in traffic)
- Check for differences in the vision of each eye by covering them one-at-a-time
2. Eye pain
- Sharp or dull pain
- Persistent pain
- Eye hurts when touched
- Persistent feeling that something is in the eye
- Any eye pain, especially if associated with any of the other warning signs listed here
3. Drainage from the eye or redness of the eye
- Crusting of the eye, especially in the morning
- Discharge from the eye, especially if associated with pain
4. Floaters and flashes
- Spider webs, dots, and floating matter that move
- Flashing or flickering lights
5. Seeing halos around lights
- May be only present in the morning and improve later in the day
- Increased glare, for example, when looking at the headlights of oncoming cars
6. Double vision
- Seeing two images, which may be side-by-side, up-and-down, or sideways
- May resolve when you cover one eye
Understand Other Factors Affecting Eye Health
Vision can be affected by some common health problems, by being female, by aging, and by some inherited factors.
- Diabetes often leads to retinopathy and cataracts; keeping diabetes under control with diet and drugs can reduce the progression of these eye effects.
- Autoimmune (rheumatoid) diseases often have treatable eye symptoms. People with diabetes or autoimmune diseases—such as Sjögren’s Syndrome or multiple sclerosis—should be under the care of an eye doctor as well as a specialist in their disease.
- High blood pressure can cause hypertensive retinopathy; keep your blood pressure under control through diet and, if needed, by medications.
- Finally, there is mounting evidence that a poor lipid profile (high LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides) may be related to AMD. After consultation with your doctor, consider following his or her advice about lipid-lowering, as well as anti-hypertensive drugs.
Just as hair turns gray, eyes change the years progress.
Although many of these changes are part of normal aging, some set the stage for more serious eye problems. Most of the blind and visually impaired people in the developed world are seniors.
- As the eyes age, tear production drops off because of changes in the glands that produce the tear film. This can lead to or worsen dry eye syndrome, which causes an uncomfortable, gritty sensation in the eye.
- As you grow older, the lens of the eye hardens and loses its elasticity. This makes it more difficult for you to focus on near objects, such as a book. This extremely common condition is called presbyopia and is easily fixed by wearing either prescription bifocals or the inexpensive reading glasses you can buy in a drugstore.
- Aging often also causes the lens to grow opaque, eventually leading to a cataract.
- Age-related changes leading to blockage of the drainage system for the fluid that bathes the front parts of the eye can cause glaucoma. Early detection is the key to the successful treatment of glaucoma. This is the main reason that people over 50 should have regular eye examinations.
- Another part of the eye, the vitreous, also shows signs of wear with age. The vitreous is the clear jelly that fills the eyeball. In older people, parts of it often fragment into little clumps called floaters, which you can sometimes see as small, moving, dark spots. Floaters are usually benign, if occasionally annoying.
- In addition, the vitreous often detaches from the back of the eye sometime in late middle age. This is sometimes accompanied by light flashes at the sides of the eye. A vitreous detachment is not a problem in itself; however, it occasionally precipitates a tear in the retina, and fluid leaking in can cause the retina to detach from the back wall of the eye. Such a retinal detachment is accompanied by light flashes or immediate loss of part of the visual field and requires immediate surgery if sight is to be well maintained.
- Age-related macular degeneration is a very serious eye disease that destroys the important central part of vision. The older you become, especially after age 60, the more likely you are to develop this potentially blinding disease.