Top tips for healthier eyes
Take a 20-second computer break
Staring at a computer (or any digital screen) won't hurt your eyes, but it can make them feel tired and dry. Surprisingly, we blink about half as often when we're looking at a screen. Follow the 20/20/20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Also, place your screen so it's about 25 inches away and slightly below eye level. Reduce glare by moving light sources or using a screen filter.
Always wear sunglasses
UV radiation can hurt your eyes just like it does your skin. Effects add up and can cause problems like cataracts, cornea burns, and even cancer of the eyelid. Whenever you're outside -- even on cloudy days -- wear sunglasses or contacts that block 99% to 100% of UV-A and UV-B rays. Protective lenses don't have to be expensive, just check the label. Hats block exposure, too. Snow, water, sand, and concrete all can reflect UV rays.
Use safety glasses at work and play
Nearly half of all eye injuries happen at home, not on a job site. Use safety glasses whenever a project might send debris flying or splash hazardous chemicals. Protective eyewear may prevent 90% of sports-related eye injuries. Lenses should be made of polycarbonate plastic -- which is 10 times more impact resistant than other materials. Some sports with the most injuries are baseball/softball, racket sports, lacrosse, and basketball.
Eat for your heart and your eyes
Foods that help circulation are good for your heart, eyes, and vision. Choose heart-healthy foods like citrus fruits, dark leafy greens, and whole grains. Foods rich in zinc -- beans, peas, peanuts, oysters, lean red meat, and poultry -- can help eyes resist light damage. And carrots do help eyesight: the vitamin A in them is important for good vision. Other nutrients that help eyes include beta-carotene (found in many yellow or orange fruits and veggies), and lutein and zeaxanthin (found in leafy greens and colorful produce).
Don't ignore eye problems
If your eyes are itchy or red, soothe them with cold compresses, antihistamines, or eye drops. If you feel grittiness, like there's sand in your eye, rinse with clean water or saline. See a doctor if symptoms continue, or if you have eye pain, secretions, swelling, or sensitivity to light. Other reasons to see a doctor: dark floating spots, flashes of light, or any time you can't see normally.
Clean your contact lenses
Take care of your eyes by taking care of your contacts. Always wash your hands before handling lenses. Use only cleaners and drops approved by your eye doctor. Clean, rinse, and dry the case each time you remove the lenses, and replace it every two to three months. Don't wear lenses when you're swimming or using cleaning products. Don't leave daily wear lenses in while you sleep, even for a nap. And don't wear lenses longer than recommended.
Know your health history
Many seemingly unrelated health conditions can affect your eyes. High blood pressure and diabetes can reduce blood flow to the eyes. Immune system disorders in the lungs, thyroid glands, or elsewhere can inflame eyes, too. Other threats include multiple sclerosis, aneurysms, and cancer. Tell your eye doctor about any current or past health issues, including family members with eye problems or serious illnesses.
Read drug labels
Many types of drugs -- or combinations of drugs -- can affect your vision. These include analgesics, antacids, anti-anxiety drugs, antibiotics, anticoagulants, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, antihypertensives, corticosteroids, diuretics, and oral contraceptives. Ask your doctor about possible side effects and look for issues like dry or watery eyes, double vision, light sensitivity, puffy or droopy eyelids, and blurred vision.