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When we think about our general health and well-being, we often don't consider our eyes—that is, until there's a problem. It's common for individuals to encounter eye issues later in life, but taking the right precautions when you're young can decrease your risk of developing eye issues as you age.
To learn how to keep your eyes healthy, we reached out to Luca Zatreanu, MD, a retina fellow at UCLA. He provided the five most important measures 20- and 30-somethings can take to improve their chances of maintaining healthy eyes. "These are general recommendations," notes Zatreanu. "Obviously considering your personal medical history and conditions, some of these may not apply. It is best to consult with your optometrist or ophthalmologist for a more tailored recommendation."
Below find five healthy lifestyle habits for equally healthy eyes.
Commit to a Healthy Diet
As with everything health-related, diet plays a huge role in keeping things running in tip-top shape. Zatreanu recommends a diet that's high in antioxidants and vitamins A, C, and E. "People who eat a lot of leafy greens also tend to have a reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration," he explains.
As if you needed another reason to quit smoking, your eye health is a factor that's often overlooked. "We all know the cardiovascular adverse effects of smoking," notes Zatreanu, "but smoking can also increase the rate of progression of cataract as well as age-related macular degeneration."
Remember UV Protection
We've all been schooled on the importance of wearing sunscreen, but we don't always think of sunglasses as something more than a fashion statement or to see better when we're out in the sun. However, protecting our eyes from UV rays is an important step in avoiding problems down the line. "UV light has been shown to lead to earlier development of cataracts," says Zatreanu. "However, there seems to be growing evidence that having some direct exposure to sunlight without sunglasses can reduce your lifetime risk of developing near-sightedness, especially if that exposure comes during childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood—before age 29. Therefore, I would say that it is a great idea to spend more time outdoors and you should probably take off the sunglasses at least part of the time."
Reduce Screen Time
One of the most common habits messing with our eye health is how much time we spend in front of digital screens. Whether for work or leisure, staring at computer, phone, or tablet screens all day has negative effects for our eyes both in the short- and long-term. "The effect of light on eye health has been extensively studied and, in some ways, its effects are not well understood. However, there is clear evidence that excessive blue light causes retinal damage and can accelerate the development of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts," notes Zatreanu. "Blue light from LEDs has also been implicated in disrupting circadian rhythm, so it might be worthwhile to avoid screen time before bed."
If You See Something, Say Something
As a final healthy habit to adopt to keep your eye health in check, Zatreanu recommends keeping aware of any changes in vision. "If you notice any of the following signs and symptoms, consult your ophthalmologist immediately," he warns. First is floaters. "You may notice when you look at a bright light source like a screen or the sky, you see floating black dots or spider webs," he describes. "These are called vitreous floaters and they are related to structural changes in the vitreous—the jelly in the middle of the eye— which is very common. However, if you notice the sudden onset of multiple flashes of light, floaters, or the sensation of a curtain or a veil falling over your vision, these are symptoms for which you should get an ophthalmological exam immediately, as it may indicate an impending retinal detachment."