By Alex Baker, OD
Special to The Enterprise

There are many things that you can do to help prevent vision problems and decrease your risk for some common ocular diseases.

Wear sunglasses and hats

Sun overexposure is associated with increased risk for macular degeneration, cataracts, and cancerous growths on the face, eyelids and the eye itself.  It can also contribute to an overgrowth of a membrane on the surface of the eye known as a pinguecula or pterygium, which can sometimes result in chronic redness and irritation.

For those with children under 10, it can be challenging to have them wear sunglasses regularly so hats may be more practical.  By the early to mid-teenage years it’s good to get in the habit of wearing sunglasses regularly.

Live a healthy lifestyle

Eat a healthy diet rich in vegetables including leafy greens like spinach, kale, arugula, chard and collard greens for the prevention of macular degeneration and vascular complications.  If you don’t like the texture of raw greens they can be sautéed with a little olive oil, seasoned with garlic and onion and can be included in various dishes like omelets.

Try to get regular cardiovascular exercise that agrees with your joints, whether it be walking, cycling, swimming, or something else.  High blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes are also risks for ocular disease, specifically problems with the retina and optic nerve.  For diabetes type 1 and 2, stay diligent in monitoring to keep your blood glucose levels on target.

Stay hydrated by choosing water over other beverages to prevent irritation and blurred vision that can be associated with ocular dryness.  Direct the vent in your car toward your torso instead of the eyes, and consider using a sleep mask at night if you sleep with an overhead or oscillating fan.

Smoking increases the risk of developing glaucoma, macular degeneration, premature cataracts and retinal vascular occlusions, so please don’t smoke and seek help in quitting if you do.

Ask your doctor

If you are concerned about something happening to your eyes and don’t know what it is, call your eye doctor, primary care doctor or urgent care.

If you wear contact lenses, always wash your hands before handling the contacts, don’t reuse storage solution, don’t sleep with the lenses in, and follow the recommended disposal schedule.  Remove the contacts if you have pain, blurry vision, redness, light sensitivity or any mucous discharge and call your eye doctor for advice.

Most people between the ages of 50 to 70 will experience a vitreous detachment that may cause a noticeable floating shadow in one eye and often quick flashes of light in their peripheral vision.  Call your eye doctor to have a dilated eye exam to make sure that it didn’t create a retinal tear or detachment, which can occur in about one in every 25 cases.

Have your eyes and your children’s eyes checked once a year to make an overall assessment of vision and to identify any problems sooner rather than later.

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