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Habits That May Be Damaging Your Vision

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

When it comes to whole body health, some key organs and systems easily leap to mind: heart, lungs, joints, muscles, bones, brain, digestive organs, and the nervous system. You probably already know the general guidelines for keeping those systems thriving at all ages: eat right, exercise, get plenty of sleep, avoid tobacco and alcohol, and reduce stress when possible. But do these healthy choices also impact the smaller, often-overlooked organs, such as your eyes? And what other habits might be harming your vision?

Examining Your Diet

There is, in fact, a clear link between diet, nutrition, and healthy eyes.

In 2019, Medical News Today cited a study from the British Journal of Ophthalmology drawing connections between age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and an unhealthy diet. Harvard Health also provides thorough advice on the nutrients that can promote healthy vision, including Vitamin C and zinc.

Most of the foods they recommend for eye health are good for the rest of your body, including:

  • Rich greens such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, and spinach
  • Nuts and seeds including flaxseed, almonds, sunflower seeds, and walnuts
  • Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines
  • Fruits like apricot, cantaloupe, and mangos

The foods you consume are not the only things that impact eye health, however. Toxins from tobacco products and alcohol are influential, as well.

A 2020 report from The American Academy of Ophthalmology outlines several problems that are made worse by smoking, including dry eye, cataracts, AMD, diabetic retinopathy, optic nerve problems, uveitis, and Graves’ disease.

And a 2017 report from the British Independent warns that “Both long term alcohol abuse and short term excessive alcohol use can lead to permanent loss of vision owing to the direct effect of alcohol on the optic nerves.”

In general, many of the same diet and substance moderation habits that are good for your other organs will be good for your eye health too.

Protecting Your Pupils

Ease and convenience may also be creating vision problems for you in more ways than one.

For instance, wearing your contacts in water, even briefly (like while showering) opens the opportunity for many risks. “Most water is not germ-free,” the CDC reports, and a particularly dangerous germ is commonly found in tap and other water sources.

Exposure to water can also cause soft contact lenses to change shape, which could scratch the cornea or cause other eye problems. So it’s better to pause and remove those contacts before any kind of dip.

Taking another moment to choose the right sunglasses — or put them on at all — may also make a big difference. In 2019, Time magazine published a comprehensive article about the threat ultraviolet rays can pose to your eyes. Avoiding protection altogether or skimping on the level of UV shielding can have a big impact.

“It doesn’t matter how dark they are or the color of the lenses,” says Dr. Rebecca Taylor, a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “The most important thing is that the sunglasses block 99 to 100% of UVA and UVB rays.”

Safeguarding Against Screens

Staring at a computer or phone screen for too long can contribute to both dry eye and eye strain, according to a 2017 article from Harvard Health. Technology and popular culture sources such as Wired and Best Life warn against overuse, as well.

“We know that interactions with screens are nearly unavoidable in our current culture,” says SouthCoast Health optometrist, Edward D. Sammons, O.D., “but excessive use can be harmful to more than your eyes. Moderation and management is definitely key.”

“Take regular breaks using the ‘20-20-20’ rule: every 20 minutes,” recommends the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Shift your eyes to look at an object at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds.”

If you spend a lot of time staring at digital screens and notice eyestrain, consider purchasing a pair of blue-light-blocking glasses. While there is a lack of conclusive evidence highlighting the damages to the eye from blue light, we do know that blue light can be disruptive to your sleep. Wearing these glasses later in the evening could potentially improve your quality of sleep.

Healthy eyes are a part of an entire healthy body, and at SouthCoast Health we are your partners in total wellness. To discuss a plan for the health of your whole family, click here to schedule an appointment with us or give us a call at 912-691-3600.

Whether you are looking for a primary care doctor or a pediatrician, or another medical specialist, SouthCoast Health has you covered with its wide range of world-class healthcare services, available throughout the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry. SouthCoast Health has 120 physicians and medical professionals in 18 locations in Savannah, Richmond Hill, Pooler, Rincon, Baxley, Hilton Head, Hinesville, and Statesboro. SouthCoast Health offers comprehensive medical services including: Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Allergy and Asthma, Cardiology, Endocrinology, Eye Care, Imaging, Infectious Diseases, Nephrology, Neurology, Physical Therapy, Podiatry, Surgery, Clinical Trial Research Studies, Diabetic Self-Management Training Sessions, Dietetic Counseling, High-Risk Breast Cancer Clinic, Laboratory Services, Massage Therapy, Optical Shop, Pharmacy, and Urgent Care.

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