There are several simple steps you can take to keep your eyes healthy for the rest of your life:
Regular comprehensive eye exams with an optometrist. Visiting an optometrist regularly for a comprehensive dilated eye exam is the most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of vision loss as you age. Although your vision may seem fine, age-related eye diseases often have no symptoms.
A comprehensive dilated eye exam is different from the basic eye exam or screening you have for glasses or contacts. By dilating the pupils and examining the back of the eyes, an optometrist can detect eye diseases in their early stages, before vision loss occurs. Through a comprehensive dilated eye exam, an optometrist can check for early signs of —
- Age-related macular degeneration, which gradually destroys the macula, the part of the eye that provides sharp, central vision.
- Cataract, a clouding of the lens in the eye.
- Diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes that damages blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye.
- Glaucoma, a group of diseases that can cause fluid and pressure to build up in the eye and damage the optic nerve.
Early diagnosis and treatment are the best ways to prevent vision loss. If you have been diagnosed with an eye disease or condition, your optometrist can work with you on appropriate treatment options.
In addition to making eye exams part of your routine health care, follow these tips to maintain healthy vision now and as you age:
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Loading up on fruits and vegetables can help keep your eyes healthy and disease free. Dark, leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and collard greens, which are good for your overall health and well-being, are especially good for eye health. Eye health benefits also come from eating fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight increases your risk for diabetes. Diabetes complications, such as diabetic retinopathy or glaucoma, can eventually lead to vision loss.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking is as bad for your eyes as it is for the rest of your body.
Smoking increases your risk for age-related macular degeneration, cataract, and other eye diseases and conditions that can damage the optic nerve.
- Wear sunglasses and a brimmed hat when outdoors. Protecting your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays when you are outdoors is vital for your eye health. Choose sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation.
The National Eye Institute (NEI), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the federal government’s principal agency for vision research, offers additional eye health information and tips for people to protect their vision as they age. Visit nei.nih.gov/healthyeyes/aging_eye to learn more.