In the United States, more than 1 million people over the age of 40 are blind, and an additional 2.4 million are visually impaired to some degree. Many may take vision for granted, but it is vital to your livelihood. The right personal protective equipment (PPE) can go a long way toward protecting your eyesight while on the job. However, there are many other things that you can do to preserve your eyesight and potentially even slow the progression of some of the causes of vision loss.
First off, it is important to have an annual comprehensive dilated eye exam. During this type of exam, your eye care professional uses drops to dilate the pupil to allow more light into the eye. The eye care professional then can look closely at the retina for any signs of damage or disease. This exam is important because it can detect such afflictions as glaucoma, diabetic eye disease and age-related macular degeneration that develop without any noticeable signs of vision impairment. As with any disease, early detection and intervention can minimize or slow the disease’s progression.
Another aspect is to look at your family history. If close family members have been diagnosed with eye diseases or conditions, which may be hereditary, you may be at risk for developing them also. By including this information during your eye exam, your eye care professional can better screen your eyes and advise you on the best ways to preserve your vision.
Wearing sunglasses may be trendy, but this action also can help save your vision. The same UV rays that can damage your skin and cause skin cancer can also damage your eyes. Make wearing sunglasses a habit all year, and ensure the lenses are able to block 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB radiation.
On the job site, eye protection in the form of safety goggles, spectacles or face shields is often required to protect your eyes and vision. This protective eyewear is a good idea outside the workplace as well. Many hazards that are encountered at the workplace can also be present when working around the house. Dust, flying fragments or chemicals in cleansers can injure the eye no matter where you are and, therefore, warrant eye protection. Nearly 1 million eye injuries occur each year at work and at home—90 percent of which can be prevented by wearing appropriate eye protection.
These days, most people spend at least part of their day at the computer. The long-term effects of the eyestrain caused by computer use are unknown, but the everyday effects are well-documented: blurry or double vision, eye pain and headaches. Users can easily reduce eyestrain and its side effects by doing the following:
• Reduce the glare of the monitor by using a glare filter or by turning the monitor away from a direct light source.
• Do not sit too close to the monitor; eyes are strained more by looking closely at something.
• Avoid setting the background lighting so that it isn’t more than 10 times brighter than the screen. Using a relatively dark screen in a bright room is an overlooked cause of eyestrain.
When you spend a good amount of time looking at a computer screen or focusing on one thing, you may fail to blink, which causes the eyes to become fatigued. Use the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes you spend focused on something, look at least 20 feet away in front of you for 20 seconds. This simple activity can be very effective at reducing eyestrain.
You may have heard that eating carrots can improve your vision, but carrots alone won’t do it. However, eating a varied, well-balanced diet really can help keep your eyes healthy, especially dark green, leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale and collard greens. Recent research has also indicated that eating fish, such as salmon, tuna and halibut, which are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, provides eye-healthy benefits.
Taking a multivitamin has also been shown to increase eye health. Ensure that it includes vitamins A, E and C and the minerals zinc, copper and selenium.
As part of an overall healthy diet and lifestyle, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent the development of glaucoma and diabetic eye disease.
Taking care of your eyes isn’t very difficult. It’s also an area of your healthcare that you have a good amount of control over. So, schedule annual eye exams, wear sunglasses, eat right, and use protective eyewear both at work and home.
KELLY is a safety and health specialist with Intec, a safety consulting, training and publishing firm that offers on-site assistance and produces manuals, training videos and software for contractors. She can be reached at 800.745.4818 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Joe O’Connor edited this article.