A few precautions will help protect your eye health throughout your life:
Don’t smoke. Smoking can cause cataracts and macular degeneration, the leading causes of blindness. If you smoke, you may not notice the signs of these two conditions until they’re further along and harder to treat. Symptoms to watch for include blurred vision or the need for more light while reading or doing other tasks.
Wear your glasses, including sunglasses. Contrary to popular belief, wearing glasses will not make you more dependent on them, Dr. Gorski says. If you’ve been prescribed corrective lenses, make it a habit—they’ll help you see clearly. It’s also essential to wear sunglasses with UV protection because they help protect against cataracts and slow down their development.
Take a break from screens and books. Surprise! Whether it’s your phone or laptop, books or magazines, reading for prolonged periods of time can increase your risk of dry eye syndrome or eye strain, Dr. Gorski says. When reading for a long time, your brain actually tells your eyes not to blink as often to improve the focus for reading. If you don’t blink enough, the eyes can dry out. Take breaks. If you experience dry eye symptoms, such as redness, itching, burning or stinging, artificial tears can help.
Protect your eyes when you’re working and having fun. Always wear protective eye gear when working with tools or materials that can cause damage to your eyes. It can also be a good idea, especially for children, to wear protective eye gear when playing contact sports and using equipment such as bats, sticks, and rackets.
Don’t sleep or swim in your contact lenses—ever. While it seems like an easier option to just keep them in, wearing them overnight or when you swim can increase your risk of eye infections caused by bacteria, fungus, or other microbes, says Dr. Gorski. Sleeping in your contact lenses can also scratch the cornea and cause eye pain and redness or other problems that can damage your vision.
Get regular medical checkups and eat a healthy diet. A balanced diet with plenty of exercise can improve and protect eye health. Dark leafy greens and foods rich in vitamin C, beta carotene, and zinc are especially beneficial, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. And regular medical checkups will help identify and manage conditions that could affect eye health, keeping your vision in great shape.