1. Regular checkups. When was the last time you had an eye exam? If it was age 3, chances are you’re due. We recommend an eye exam before age 5 to check for childhood problems like lazy eye or crossed eyes. We recommend annual eye exams not only to asses your vision, but to check eye health, especially important for contact lens wearers. It's normal for vision to change with age, plus serious eye problems like glaucoma and macular degeneration (deterioration of retina that causes loss of detail vision) can be treated if detected early. Anyone with diabetes, with a family history of eye problems or African-Americans over 40 should check with their doctor about more frequent visits. (In middle age, African-Americans may need more frequent checkups because of an increased risk for glaucoma.)
2. SPF for the eyes. Sunglasses don’t just prevent crows’ feet from squinting, they also block harmful ultraviolet and other rays than can play a role in cataracts and macular degeneration. Fair-skinned Caucasians are at the greatest risk for the latter. Be sure your sunglasses have 100 percent UV protection. “The blue wavelengths--violet and blue--hit the retina,” says Dr. Lylas Mogk, co-author of Macular Degeneration: The Complete Guide to Saving and Maximizing Your Sight. You should always wear sunglasses when outside (and not just in the summer) but especially in high glare areas like snow or water.
3. Eye protection. Sunglasses aren't the only protective eyewear you should wear. Obviously anyone working around construction, manufacturing—any job with machinery and flying particles—must wear eye protection. But even when you’re working around the house, you should guard your eyes. “Hanging a picture, plaster or even a nail can fly into your eye,” warns Dr. Iwach.
4. Contact lens care. “Contacts are a great tool but they come with responsibility,” says Dr. Iwach. Be sure to have a pair of glasses with a recent prescription so that if you get any irritation you can change over. Wearing your contacts when your eyes are irritated can turn a simple problem (irritation) into a significant problem (ulcers). Make sure you care for the lenses properly. Even if your solution bottle says "No Rub", rub anyway at night--you can't be too careful..
5. Eye candy. Are carrots really good for your eyes? “Carrots are rich in vitamin A, which the retina needs,” says Dr. Lylas Mogk. “But we’re not in the least bit in danger of having vitamin A deficiencies.” However, green leafy veggies like kale, collard and mustard greens, and spinach are good for the eyes because they contain lutein, which studies indicate can reverse symptoms of macular degeneration. And getting plenty of omega-3 fatty acids from fish and flax can help prevent dry eyes. But avoid omega-6 fatty acids, which is tricky in the American diet. Omega-6s are in vegetable oils. “There are very few processed or packaged foods that don’t have vegetable oils,” notes Dr. Mogk. “And the omega-6s counteract the good omega-3s.”
6. Eye lube. Our eyes get dryer as we age. “The biggest reason people have dry eyes is that the tear film doesn’t have the right consistency of water, mucus and oil,” says Dr. Mogk. The oil part of your tears comes from little glands around your eyelids. As you blink, oil is supposed to coat the eyes. But if you don’t have a good eye slick, the tear film evaporates and eyes feel dry. This triggers extra tear glands, which is why your eyes tear up when they get dry and irritated. Omega-3 helps with this. Also, heat and air conditioning can cause dry eyes, especially if you sit near a vent or fan unit. Make sure your car’s vent isn’t blowing toward your face.
7. Quit smoking. Need another reason to quit smoking? You got it: Smoking increases the risk and accelerates the development of cataracts, macular degeneration and optic nerve damage.
8. Eye strain. Any focused work means you don’t blink as frequently. And all the computer work and Internet surfing can take a toll. It’s always good to take a break, change focus. And artificial tears can help with eyestrain, lubricating the eyes to help you work longer.
9. Talk to your family. Eye problems are often hereditary. If you are diagnosed with glaucoma or another eye condition, share that information with your immediate and extended family. The sooner people are diagnosed, the more that can be done to treat and prevent further damage.
10. Stay healthy. We’ve already seen how eating right (veggies over processed foods) helps with eye health. Exercise increases circulation, which can lower pressure on the eyes, which helps with those who have glaucoma. Getting regular overall physicals may lead to early detection of diseases like diabetes or other systemic conditions that can lead to eye problems. And most important, if something bothers you or feels wrong, get it checked out. As Dr. Iwach puts it, “You get your oil checked regularly, so get your eyes checked regularly.”