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Health & Wellness

4 Ways to Help Protect Your Vision

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Growing up, you probably remember mom telling you not to cross your eyes (“they’ll stay that way!") and to move back from the TV (“you’ll go blind!”).

In reality, there were other things your parents could have warned you about that could be far more damaging to long-term vision.

There are eye diseases associated with aging that men and women may be able to help prevent, according to Michelle Andreoli, MD, an ophthalmologist at Wheaton Eye Clinic in the Chicago suburbs. Glaucoma, which is usually the result of fluid build-up that damages the optic nerve, and macular degeneration, which is caused by a portion of the retina deteriorating and is a leading cause of loss of vision, are diseases which have modifiable risk factors, says Andreoli. A few simple lifestyle changes could pay off down the line. “Controlling weight, controlling one’s diet, not smoking, wearing sunglasses—these are some things you and I can do at a very young age to protect our vision for much later in life,” says Andreoli.  

She shared the following tips to protect your vision as you age.

1. Improve your diet and exercise.

One of the risk factors for glaucoma is diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, people with diabetes are 40% more likely to experience glaucoma. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that  losing weight, eating healthier and participating in at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five times per week may reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes

2. Quit smoking.

Smoking can damage your eyes, contributing to problems such as macular degeneration and cataracts, which involves the clouding of the eye lens and can cause blurry vision. According to the CDC, people who smoke are twice as likely to develop macular degeneration and two to three times more likely to develop cataracts compared with non-smokers. While surgery can help in the case of cataracts, macular degeneration has no cure. “Macular degeneration is very debilitating,” says Andreoli. “Patients cannot drive, they cannot read, they cannot read their mail, they can’t see their grandkids.” By quitting smoking, you may avoid vision problems down the line.  

3. Wear sunglasses.

Ultraviolet rays can damage the eyes and may also contribute to macular degeneration. Andreoli says sunglasses can help protect the eyes from harm. “We tell everybody that they should be wearing sunglasses all the time if they’re outside, even if it’s cloudy. Cloudy days don’t block out as much UV light as people think,” she says. Talk to your eye doctor about choosing a pair of sunglasses with UV protection.

4. Be aware of changes in your vision.

There are a handful of distinctive signs that warrant an immediate call to the eye doctor. Andreoli says she tells her patients to remember RSVP: redness, sensitivity to light, vision changes and pain. She adds that a flashing light could also indicate retinal tear or retinal detachment, and a person experiencing that should seek medical attention quickly.

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