I haven’t always been proud of my 20/20 vision – as a kid, I couldn’t wait to get a number just so that I would get my very own spectacles. Yes, I thought that the geeky look was ‘cool’ way before Harry Potter mania had even caught on! Of course, as the years went by and my wisdom grew (or so I like to think), I came to appreciate my unimpaired and undiminished eyesight. Eyesight is one of the most essential senses for a wide range of activities and our visual perception of the world greatly enriches the human experience. In recent years, I’ve started to take better care of my vision, adopting eye care tips and hacks to preserve my 20/20 vision and lower the risk of visual impairment. Here are some healthy habits that I have tried and am planning to try in 2020.
5 Steps to Preserving Your Vision
Follow the 20-20-20 Rule
Whether you’re gaming, coding, writing, or animating, you can lose track of time, spending hours glued to the screen. This is something that I did routinely as I’d get completely absorbed in my work. I won’t deny the incredible satisfaction that I’d feel after getting a job done, but there was no escaping the eye strain either. I frequently suffered from dry eyes, redness, fatigue and headaches, but somehow didn’t connect the dots. After visiting my ophthalmologist, I found that my vision was still perfect, but that I had been straining my eyes. That’s when I began to follow the 20-20-20 rule  – I take a break from staring at the screen every 20 minutes to look at stuff about 20 feet away from me for at least 20 seconds. It has helped strain my eye lesser than earlier.
Protect Your Eyes from the Sun
You don’t need to gaze directly at the sun like a certain president did during an eclipse to suffer UV-induced eye damage! Regular exposure to UV rays from sunlight plays a significant role in the development of various ocular conditions, with studies linking  it to cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Macular degeneration involves damage to part of the retina and is the most common cause of visual impairment as we age. The link shouldn’t be surprising, as UV rays are also regarded as the primary contributor to skin damage and skin aging. While you obviously can’t slather sunscreen over your eyes, UV protective sunglasses will do the job. I never venture out without my trusted sunglasses. Just make sure that you invest in a good pair of UV protective glasses as many are marketed as such, but don’t actually offer UV protection.
Stop Rubbing Your Eyes!
Whether I had a late-night, woke up feeling refreshed, or just washed my face, I would often rub my eyes fairly vigorously. It’s almost instinctive and we all do it more frequently than we realise. That’s a habit I’ve resolved to ditch in 2020. I recently stumbled upon study findings published in the International Journal of Ophthalmology , linking eye rubbing to a condition called keratoconus. To put it simply, rubbing your eyes frequently or vigorously causes structural changes, specifically a thinning of the cornea. This increases the risk of eye infections and deterioration of vision.
Pamper Your Eyes
There’s no clinical evidence to suggest that this will improve or preserve your eyesight, but logic dictates that just as relaxing overworked muscles is good for your body, so is relaxing the eyes for (you guessed it) the eyes. It’s especially helpful now that you have to give up that satisfying eye rub! While some people swear by palming, which involves cupping your warm palms over your eyes, I found comfort in cucumber slices and rose water pads. To do this, you simply place a slice of chilled cucumber (or a cotton swab soaked in cold rose water) over each eye for about 5 minutes. It’s incredibly soothing, reduces any eye strain that you might have and also makes you feel super alert.
Schedule Routine Eye Exams
This is all about being more proactive when it comes to eye health. Visual deterioration can often be prevented through early detection and treatment, which makes routine eye exams your best bet at preserving vision. I will be making it a point to go for an eye exam this year and every 2 years going forward as this is the standard recommendation for healthy adults in their 20s and 30s. If you already have some form of visual impairment and use spectacles or contact lenses, it’s advisable to get tested annually. Routine testing is even more important if you suffer from conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure .
I have always believed that healthy living is the answer to pretty much every problem and that’s also true here. There’s no scarcity of evidence to show the importance of nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin, vitamins A, C and E, zinc, and above all omega-3 fatty acids for eye health. Lutein and zeaxanthin, which are carotenoids, are particularly important as numerous studies  show that supplementation and dietary intake of these nutrients can prevent and help treat age-related macular degeneration and cataract. They are also known to exhibit antioxidant and blue-light filtering properties, which we are increasingly exposed to from digital screens. I find that it’s easiest to up my intake of these vital nutrients with a potent supplement – Eye Max.
Physical activity lowers the risk of conditions like obesity, hypertension, and diabetes, which are known to damage blood vessels in the eyes. So, while all of these tips may help preserve my eyesight, as always, I’m also going to stay focused on healthy nutrition and fitness.
– Nihaal Mariwala
Answers to crossword:
- Eye Max
- Blue light
- “Computer Vision Syndrome.” American Optometric Association, www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/protecting-your-vision/computer-vision-syndrome?sso=y.
- Roberts, Joan E. “Ultraviolet radiation as a risk factor for cataract and macular degeneration.” Eye & contact lens vol. 37,4 (2011): 246-9. doi:10.1097/ICL.0b013e31821cbcc9 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21617534-ultraviolet-radiation-as-a-risk-factor-for-cataract-and-macular-degeneration/
- Najmi, Hatim et al. “The correlation between keratoconus and eye rubbing: a review.” International journal of ophthalmology vol. 12,11 1775-1781. 18 Nov. 2019, doi:10.18240/ijo.2019.11.17 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6848869/
- Medical Advisory Secretariat. “Routine eye examinations for persons 20-64 years of age: an evidence-based analysis.” Ontario health technology assessment series vol. 6,15 (2006): 1-81. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3379534/
- Ma, Le, and Xiao-Ming Lin. “Effects of lutein and zeaxanthin on aspects of eye health.” Journal of the science of food and agriculture vol. 90,1 (2010): 2-12. doi:10.1002/jsfa.3785 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20355006-effects-of-lutein-and-zeaxanthin-on-aspects-of-eye-health/