Eyesight is precious, but it's easy to take it for granted until injury or disease affects it. Your eyes are vulnerable to many types of damage and disease, but there’s a lot you can do to protect them.
If you search for “how to protect my eyes” online, you’ll get a wide range of results that mix myths with facts. Since vision has such a big impact on our quality of life, it’s no wonder that there’s a lot of information out there on how to protect eyesight.
However, not all of it is accurate. To truly protect your vision, you have to focus on the things that matter. Read on to find out how to protect your eyes according to proven data rather than suppositions.
Know If You’re at Risk for Eye Diseases
Eye diseases often run in the family. Scientists have identified over 350 hereditary eye diseases including common causes of vision loss such as cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
If anyone in your family has these conditions, you have a higher risk of developing them yourself.
Two other conditions to watch out for are high blood pressure and diabetes. Both can cause eye complications that can impair vision, such as diabetic retinopathy.
As you age, your tear glands produce fewer tears for lubricating the surface of your eyes. Being over 60 makes you more likely to suffer from dry, gritty eyes and the other symptoms of dry eye disease.
Certain medications and medical conditions such as Sjogren’s disease or rheumatoid arthritis can also increase your risk of eye disease. As can working in dry or dusty environments or being exposed to smoke or chemicals.
Having regular medical exams, including eye exams and physical exams, is one of the best ways to protect your vision by identifying and managing risk factors within your control.
Leafy greens have lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that occur naturally as pigments in the eye. They help protect the retina at the back of the eye from oxidative damage caused by free radicals.
You can also get a healthy dose of zeaxanthin from goji berries. Other antioxidants that can ward off eye disease include anthocyanins found in blueberries.
Vitamins E and C also protect your eye cells. For a healthy and tasty dose of vitamin E, eat almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, and peanuts regularly. For vitamin C, eat citrus fruits, bell peppers, and strawberries.
The omega-3 fatty acid DHA from oily fish could also protect your eyesight. If you don’t eat fish, you can look for a DHA vegan supplement made from algae.
According to a 2020 study, regular cardiovascular exercise helps keep the delicate blood vessels in your eyes healthy. It reduces the risk for diabetic retinopathy, AMD, and other eye diseases.
The American Optometric Association also reports that physical activity may reduce the risk of developing glaucoma.
In a study involving almost 10,000 adults between the ages of 40 and 81, participants who totaled 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week had a 50% lower glaucoma risk compared to those leading a sedentary life.
Aerobic exercises can lower intraocular eye pressure, which is a risk factor for glaucoma. The better your cardiovascular fitness, the lower your risk of glaucoma. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, 5 days a week.
Get UV Protection
Ultraviolet radiation can damage cells in the eye, causing cataracts and other eye diseases. That’s why it’s always a good idea to wear sunglasses in the daytime. Cloudy days included.
For the best protection, use sunglasses that offer 100% UV filtering. If you wear eyeglasses to correct a vision problem, opt for clear lenses with a UV coating.
Stop Smoking and Avoid Second-Hand Smoke
In addition to undermining your general health, smoking puts you at higher risk of developing a host of eye diseases, including cataracts and AMD. It can also make dry eyes worse. Second-hand smoke can be just as bad.
Although challenging, quitting smoking is one of the single most important decisions you can make for your eyes and health in general.
Take Regular Screen Breaks
Staring at a computer screen doesn’t damage your vision—that’s only a myth. But it can cause eye strain and make dry eyes worse by increasing the number of incomplete blinks.
Every 20 minutes, take your eyes off the screen and gaze at an object at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This is the good old 20-20-20 rule, and it can protect your eyes from eye strain.
Simply closing your eyes regularly for 20 seconds or more can also help.
Pay Attention to Any Changes in Your Vision
Frequent flashes of light, double vision, a sudden increase in floaters, difficulties seeing at night, or hazy vision—these vision changes can be a warning sign of a serious eye condition.
If you experience these or any other vision changes, schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist. Many eye diseases start subtly.
You can also test your vision online. Our simple question-based test can help you find out whether you have dry eye disease, a common condition in the digital age.
See Your Eye Doctor Once a Year
Even if you don’t have any vision problems or eye diseases in your family, regular eye exams can protect your vision. Some vision problems come without early warning signs.
But a comprehensive eye exam carried out by an ophthalmologist can spot them. Catching vision problems early makes them easier to manage and may improve the outcome.
Wear Protective Eye Wear
Eye accidents can happen when you least expect them. More than being painful, they can damage vision irremediably.
Grab a pair of protective eyewear and put it on during any sport or activity where there’s a risk of eye damage. Whether you’re spray-painting, playing baseball, or trimming the higher branches of a tree.
Love swimming? Grab some swim goggles for the local pool. Pool water has a high chlorine concentration that can lead to dry eyes and increase the risk for infections.
Don’t Overuse Eye Drops
Eye drops with a long self-life have preservatives that can irritate your eyes, make dry eyes worse, and trigger other eye conditions.
Eye drops without preservatives are safer. But frequent use increases the risk for eye infections. Eye drops for dry eye can make dry eyes worse.
If your doctor prescribes you eye drops, take them. But keep in mind that over-the-counter eye drops cannot cure conditions like dry eyes—they only alleviate the symptoms.
Look for the underlying causes of your eye condition and consider a more holistic treatment that includes dietary and lifestyle changes to protect your vision in the long term.
Take an Eye Health Supplement
A busy schedule can make it difficult to eat healthy meals on time. Or snack on that bowl of healthy blueberries that awaits you in the fridge.
Our sugar-free, fruit and plant-based supplements bring together the benefits of superfoods like blueberries, goji berries, and turmeric to support healthy vision. Infused with the wisdom of nature, they’re easy to take and packed with antioxidants.
And with that, our list of tips on how to protect your eyes comes to an end. Your eyes are precious, so take good care of them. Remember: every healthy meal and every workout counts!