Maintaining Eye Health

Story by Gladeen Allred, Ed.D., Aging Advocates

Which of your five senses is most important to you? The human body receives sensory information through the senses of sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch. Many people say their eyesight is the sense they value the most.  This is because people rely on sight to make sense of the world around them, to help them maintain independence, and therefore enjoy life to the fullest.

Age-Related Change  

While eyes are an important part of our health, our vision may change naturally throughout our life. For example, as we age, we may need more light to see, and it can become harder to tell the difference between colors, especially blue and green.  It also may be more difficult to focus on near objects and more troublesome for our eyes to adjust to glare and darkness. People tend to make fewer tears as they age due to hormonal changes which can be treated with artificial tears.

Protecting Your Eyes

Good eye health begins with the food on your plate.  According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and the American Optometric Association (AOA), the best foods for eye health include fish, nuts, and legumes which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, seeds, citrus fruits, leafy green vegetables, carrots, sweet potatoes, and beef.  It is important to eat a varied diet that includes a lot of fruits and vegetables and lean protein. If this is difficult, ask a healthcare professional about eye health supplements, such as lutein, zinc, and vitamins C and E.  

In addition to eating a balanced diet, other suggestions for eye care are:

  1. Stay hydrated. Health authorities commonly recommend eight 8-ounce glasses, which equals about half a gallon.
  2. Stop smoking.
  3. Protect your eyes from the sun. Choose sunglasses that block 99% to 100% ultraviolet A & B radiation to help protect against cataracts.
  4. Do not wear dark glasses at night or indoors.  It can make eyes more light sensitive over time.
  5. When involved in computer work or tasks that mostly involve your eyes, take regular breaks. Look away every 20 minutes or so at an object several feet away to rest your eyes.
  6. If you wear contact lenses, closely follow the recommended schedule for cleaning and wearing them.
  7. Have a regular dilated eye exam every year or two and annually after age 60.

Warning Symptoms

If you experience the following symptoms, even if temporary, see an eyecare professional, such as an optometrist or ophthalmologist. 

  •     Red, painful eye or dry eyes
  •     Partial or total vision loss in one or both eyes
  •     Double vision
  •     Blind spots
  •     Halos around lights or areas of distorted vision
  •     Reduced peripheral vision

Eye Diseases   

Eye diseases which may occur as we age include cataracts, a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision which can be surgically removed; macular degeneration,  a problem in which dark areas appear in the central vision and glaucoma,  a disease that damages the eye’s optic nerve when fluid builds up in the front part of the eye. If you experience any change in vision, visit an eyecare professional.

Do not take the ability of sight for granted. Taking care of your eyes is essential. Regular eye exams are an important part of your health and wellness. Ask your family doctor for the name of a local eye care specialist or contact your health plan to learn if it has a list of eye care professionals that are covered under your plan.    

About Aging Advocates

Aging Advocates, a group of area businesses and agencies in the Payne County area meet monthly to advocate for older adults. From their experiences, they innovate ideas and raise awareness of older adult issues. It is important to look at the developing needs of the aging population and support, educate, and identify services valuable to a life fully lived.