7 Ways to Reduce Aging of Your Eyes

Spoiler alert… We’re giving you the best way to reduce aging of the eyes up front. Ready?

Form healthy habits early on in life! But if you’re not in your early days of life then Colorado’s doctors of optometry have seven ways for you to get yourself on track to protecting your vision and eye health through your lifespan.

There are several common habits that speed up the aging process for your eyes. Some habits are easier to break than others. Many individuals start with changing one or two smaller habits that seem easier to modify. Other people begin by breaking a bigger habit to create a greater positive impact on their health. Regardless of the change you choose to make being big or small, the choice to live healthier today can slow your eye aging process in years to come. Colorado optometrists recommend incorporating all seven tips as a way to safeguard our vision as we age. 

“Taking care of your eye health early in life does a lot to preserve your vision later in life. Many eye health consequences that people experience from smoking or obesity are not reversible. We want to make sure Coloradans know how to maintain healthy vision now and to reduce risky habits that increase eye health challenges in later years. A great first step is to get an annual comprehensive eye exam from your local optometrist trained to detect eye health issues before any symptoms occur,” says Dr. Tom Cruse, Board President at Colorado Optometric Association.

7 High Impact Ways to Reduce Eye Aging

Taking Sun Exposure Seriously 
Sun exposure can increase your risk of cataracts and if you have blue eyes and fair skin your risk of cataracts is even higher. Once sun damage of the eye occurs, the long term impact is not reversible making sun glasses more important than most people think. The Colorado sun is bright due to the elevation and the intense sun reflecting off of snow or water. Grab a pair of 100% UVA/UVB blocking sunglasses to safeguard your eye health and wear them when outside. Pair your sunglasses with a hat for even more UV protection since sunlight can slip in through the side of your glasses. Start your kids off right by protecting their eyes early on. Bonus: tiny sunglasses are cute!

Regular Exercise Regular exercise is helpful across the board for your general health, but it’s also essential for keeping your vision from diminishing. One study of more than 15,000 people discovered that individuals who exercised and drank occasionally had less vision loss over a 20-year period than individuals who did not exercise and did not drink.1 This finding outlines the importance of exercise. Find the exercise that works for you whether it’s walking, hiking, running, swimming, weightlifting, or the countless other ways to get movement in.  

Nutrient Dense Food Choices
When choosing what to eat throughout your day make sure you’re getting the nutrients that promote healthy eyes. To support your eye health and reduce eye disease risks choose foods rich in vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. These foods include (but are not limited to) dark green leafy vegetables, dark berries and wild salmon. If you have already been diagnosed with an eye disease check with your optometrist to understand which foods can support your eye health and which foods can provoke your symptoms or even speed up the progression of the disease. 

Get a Comprehensive Eye Exam Annually
It’s simple, just because you don’t have any symptoms does NOT mean you should skip your annual comprehensive eye exam. Many vision threatening eye diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts, or diabetic retinopathy have no or minimal symptoms until the disease has progressed. Early detection is key to slowing progress, managing disease, and saving vision. Find a trusted Colorado optometrist here!

Optometrists look at a lot more than just your vision acuity in a comprehensive exam and can even detect other health issues such as; autoimmune conditions, allergies, medication complications, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and more.

Eye Exam Frequency for Low Risk Patients:

Birth – 2 years: Exam at 6 to 12 months of age
3 – 5 years: At least once between 3 and 5 years of age
6 – 17: Before first grade and annually thereafter
18 – 39:  Every 1-2 years
40 and older: Every 1-2 years
65 and older:  Annually  

Eye Exam Frequency for At-risk Patients:

Birth – 2 years: Exam at 6 to 12 months of age
3 – 5 years: At least once between 3 and 5 years of age
6 – 17: Before first grade and annually thereafter
18 – 39:  At least annually or as recommended
40 – 64: At least annually or as recommended
65 and older:  At least annually or as recommended

At Risk Patients Include:

  • A personal or family history of ocular disease.
  • Certain racial and ethnic groups can have predispositions to eye health conditions.
  • Systemic health conditions with potential ocular manifestations, for example, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
  • Occupations that are highly demanding visually or have a high potential of being hazardous to the eyes.
  • Taking prescription or nonprescription drugs with ocular side effects.
  • Functional vision in only one eye.
  • Wearing contact lenses.
  • Eye surgery or previous eye injury.
  • High or progressive refractive error.
  • Other eye-related health concerns or conditions. 
    Patients who have undergone refractive surgery (LASIK, PRK, SMILE) should still have an eye exam every 1-2 years for monitoring of overall ocular health.1

Quit Smoking or Don’t Start 

The truth is that smoking tobacco increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and Dry Eye Syndrome. Many of these diseases can lead to vision loss or blindness. ARMD is the leading cause of blindness and studies show that smokers have up to four times the risk of developing ARMD. If you’ve been unsuccessful at smoking cessation keep trying and get support such as using the Colorado QuitLine, a free support program for Colorado residents. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or Enroll today.

Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being overweight or obese increases your risk of Age-related Macular Degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma. Unfortunately, losing the weight does not lower your increased risk for cataracts, which makes maintaining a healthy weight important.

Being underweight also jeopardizes eye health due to vitamin deficiencies, decreased sleep and immune function, as well as, causing growth and development issues in kids.

If you need assistance with weight control for any reason talk to your primary care physician. Your doctor can rule out any underlying medical issues.

Calculate your BMI and learn more about healthy weight maintenance.

Control Blood Pressure Regardless of your current health status check your blood pressure every few months. High blood pressure is known as “the silent killer.” Many people don’t know they have elevated blood pressure until it’s too late and they’ve suffered a health issue like a stroke or permanent loss of vision.

Healthy Blood Pressure Levels:

  • Normal (less than 120/80) continue to check it every few months. 
  • Elevated (120-139/80-89 or higher). See your primary care physician and get a comprehensive eye exam from your optometrist to rule out eye health conditions.
  • Possible medication needed if (systolic) is over 140 or your bottom number (diastolic) is over 90. See your primary care physician and get a comprehensive eye exam from your optometrist to rule out eye health conditions.

Eye Emergencies: What to Do & Where to Go

The weather is finally changing in Colorado and we are nearing the snowstorms and cold temperatures that we call winter… AND also cold and flu season. With COVID-19 still surging through our nation, some experts are predicting that cases will increase through winter, which may mean that Colorado communities are again called on to reduce emergency room visits. We all know that emergencies will still happen so here is what to do in case of an eye emergency.

Symptoms That Need Immediate Attention

  • Black spots or flashes of light
  • Curtain-like disappearance of vision
  • Injury/trauma to the eye
  • Eye pain (pain is an indicator of inflammation or injury)
  • Seeing halos or rainbows around light
  • Loss of peripheral (side) vision
  • Sudden hazy or blurred vision
  • Sudden vision loss in one eye
  • Red, crusty or swollen eyelids
  • Pupils are different sizes

Symptoms That Need an Eye Exam Soon

  • Blurred or double vision
  • Excessive tearing or watering of your eyes
  • Itchy, burning, or dry eyes
  • Difficulty seeing in dark environments
  • Seeing spots or ghost-like images
  • Light sensitivity
  • Eye strain and/or frequent mild headaches

Many Colorado eye doctors have after hours care and are a more appropriate place to care for your ocular emergency.  Call your eye care provider first to see if you should be seen by your optometrist or if your situation is better addressed in the emergency department.

“As we approach winter, it’s important for Colorado communities to understand how to access eye health care while reducing emergency room visits. This will be very important to free up hospital resources during the pandemic as we work to stay healthy and limit the virus spread,” says Dr. Tom Cruse, President of the Colorado Optometric Association’s Board of Directors.

If you are experiencing an eye emergency and do not have an optometrist find one in the Colorado Directory of Optometrists at: 2020EyesColorado.org

Emergencies an Eye Doctor Can Treat:

Blunt Eye Trauma

  • Apply a cold compress without putting pressure on the eye to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Severe pain or reduced vision require immediate care from an eye doctor.

Eye Cut, Puncture or Foreign Body to the Eye or Eyelid

  • Do not attempt to remove an object from your eye or eyelid.
  • Do not wash out the eye for punctures, cuts or foreign bodies.
  • Do not bandage the eye.
  • Do not rub the eye.
  • Protect the eye with a rigid shield, like sunglasses or the bottom half of a paper cup and see an eye doctor immediately.

Chemical Burn of the Eye

  • Flush eye(s) thoroughly with saline (preferably) or water for 15 minutes and get to an eye care professional immediately.
  • For individuals with contact lenses, attempt to remove them first.
  • Do not try to neutralize the chemical with another chemical or substance.

Sudden Vision Changes or Loss

Address quickly with your optometrist to avoid permanent vision loss and rule out more serious health issues like stroke, nerve damage, neurological issues, and retinal or corneal defects.

Red Eye

  • Red eye with discharge needs to be examined by an optometrist as soon as possible for correct identification and treatment for the type of conjunctivitis (pink eye). Emergency rooms have a history of overprescribing antibiotics for conjunctivitis when 80% of cases are viral.
  • Red eye could also indicate uveitis or ocular herpes, which can be sight-threatening making quick and proper evaluation by an eye doctor important.

Pupils are Different Sizes (pupil anisocoria)

  • If you were born with this condition it is benign.
  • If this is a new symptom, whether it’s constant or sporadic, schedule an exam with your optometrist as soon as possible as this could be vision threatening.

Pandemic Stress Can Change Your Eyesight

How have the last few months been for you?

Regardless of the positives in your life you’re probably baseline stressed.

It’s normal to feel anxious, stressed, overwhelmed or even scared right now. Colorado is experiencing both a pandemic and a civil rights movement alongside the compounding challenges of reopening schools, a high unemployment rate, and smoke from wildfires keeping many people inside… oh yes and we’re in the midst of an election season.

It’s fair to say that Coloradans are carrying more stress with them on a consistent basis, but what is it doing to our bodies?

We’ve all had that moment where we get some bad news and we can feel the stress take over our bodies. This is called fight, flight or freeze and it’s where your body moves into protection mode.  Initially, your heart may pump faster as adrenaline moves through the body, your breathing becomes shallow, and your pupils dilate enhancing your ability to see danger. Your body is preparing for a physical threat even if the stress is from a non-physical threat like a difficult project at work or a spat with a friend.

You may experience mild stress, or you may experience high stress. The eyes also experience a range of impact due to stress from mild discomfort to debilitating vision loss.

Symptoms of Stress Impacting Eye Health:

  • Tunnel vision – Loss of visual acuity in the peripheral vision. Feels like you can only see in front of you.
  • Light sensitivity – An intolerance to light. Feels like you have to close your eyes when experiencing light and there is discomfort.
  • Eye twitching – Random spasms around the lid of one or both eyes.
  • Very dry or very wet eyes – Both of these can be cause by stress depending on your body’s response.
  • Blurry vision – This is usually mild when caused by stress.
  • Eye strain – Fatigue of the eyes may be caused by stress, but can also be caused by too much screen time.
  • Vision Loss – The stress hormone cortisol can damage the eye and the brain. Stress is also linked to causing diseases that can lead to vision loss including glaucoma.

It’s more likely that your eye’s response to stress will be minor, but if any of these symptoms are impacting your quality of life or the symptoms persist contact your optometrist immediately.

Ideas to Lower Stress & Relax Your Eyes

  • Reduce your screen time for a few days to reduce eye strain and give eye muscles a break
  • During screen time use the 20-20-20 Rule. Every 20minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20
  • Participate in a daily meditation
  • Exercise daily
  • Walk outside if possible
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Get good sleep

We know that stress impacts every system of the body including our eyes. Colorado’s doctors of optometry want you to know that the benefits of managing stress on a daily basis will not only improve your eye health, but your overall health. Even picking one stress reducing activity daily can help. What will you pick?

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