Why Millennials Should Act Now: Avoid Eye Problems Later in Life
As the global population continues to expand, eye disease is becoming more and more common. By the year 2050, an estimated 895 million people worldwide may develop eye conditions, according to a report in The Lancet. That’s a 150% increase over the next 30 years.
If you're in your 20s or 30s, you probably don't spend much time thinking about eye disease or vision care. But this is exactly the time you should be acting to prevent future vision loss. Most eye problems are preventable with simple healthy habits.
What are the best ways to avoid eye problems later in life?
Know your family history. Diseases like glaucoma or macular degeneration are hereditary.
- Many eye conditions are inherited. You have a much higher chance of developing macular degeneration if a close family member is affected by this condition. Your risk of glaucoma is four to nine times higher than average if a family member has it.
- Ask family members about their eye conditions. This can help you and your ophthalmologist watch for conditions before they appear. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent vision loss.
Always wear sunglasses outdoors.
- Long-term exposure to UV radiation can damage the cornea and the lens and eventually lead to cataracts and eye cancers.
- Choose sunglasses that block 99 to 100% of both UVA and UVB radiation, and wear them even when it’s cloudy outside.
Protect your eyes at work.
- Using screens won’t blind you, but it can cause uncomfortable symptoms, known as eye strain. If you work in an office, sit at least an arm’s length away from the computer and use the 20–20–20 rule throughout the day to give your eyes a break.
- Wear protective goggles if you work in construction or with chemicals, or enjoy home improvement projects. More than 90% of eye injuries can be avoided by wearing proper eye protection.
Protect your eyes when playing sports.
- Playing sports that involve a ball or a racquet can lead to eye injuries without proper protection.
- The best way to prevent sport-related eye injuries is by wearing eye gear, glasses or a helmet with a safety visor.
- Make sure you are washing your hands, storing contacts properly, and using cleaning solution for disinfection.
- Sleeping, showering and swimming in contact lenses increases your risk for a potentially blinding eye infection.
- If you develop redness, changes in vision or pain, stop wearing your lenses and reach out to your ophthalmologist immediately.
Don't share makeup — doing so can spread infection.
- Throw away eye makeup after three months and use new products.
- Apply eyeliners outside the lash line, rather than close to your eye.
- Thoroughly remove your makeup before going to bed.
- If your eyes have an unusual reaction to any makeup, such as persistent pain or redness, see an ophthalmologist.
Expect eye changes during pregnancy.
- You may experience some normal eye changes including blurry vision or dry eye. If these symptoms persist after you’re a new mom, talk to your doctor.
- If you’re pregnant and have diabetes, you face other risks and should have your eyes screened early in the pregnancy.
Eat well and exercise.
- Many studies have shown that exercise and a diet rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables can protect against blinding eye diseases, such as macular degeneration and glaucoma.
- Eating a diet rich in plant-based foods and low in saturated or animal fats is best for healthy eyes.
- Moderate exercise, exercising moderately for 30 minutes a day, five times a week can help protect you from the same eye conditions.
- Smoking increases the risk for eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration. Tobacco smoke, including second-hand smoke, also causes dry eye.
- Smoking also raises the risk for cardiovascular diseases which can indirectly influence your eye health.
Keep other health conditions under control.
- Chronic health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, if left untreated, can affect your vision. For example, diabetic eye disease is one of the most common causes of blindness.
- Follow your doctor's guidance carefully and attend all regular medical appointments. Do everything you can to remain in control of your health.
Learn what “normal” aging means. Vision loss is not an inevitable part of getting older.
- Starting at around age 40, you may notice blurry close-up vision. This is called presbyopia and it's fairly common. You may require reading glasses.
- Blurry vision sometimes signals a more serious eye condition such as macular degeneration. Pay close attention to worsening symptoms and get regular eye screenings by an ophthalmologist.
- Many eye problems begin without any symptoms. Regular eye exams can help you catch problems before it’s too late.
- The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends adults get a baseline eye exam at age 40 or possibly sooner based on symptoms and family history. Then follow your ophthalmologist’s recommendation after that.