Even if you are careless about your health and the rest of your body, you absolutely cannot afford to neglect your eyes. The wellbeing of this precious pair is essential so that you can continue to have a great quality of life even in your advanced years. However, the tragedy is that most of us, in the stresses and strains of everyday life, end up treating our peepers very badly. And over-exposure to artificial light in offices and from televisions, computer screens and mobile devices have only made it worse.
In fact, new research from the University Complutense of Madrid (UCM) reveals that LED light, including that emitted by digital screens, may damage your eyes irreversibly, and even lead to blindness. The research that will be published in the journal Photochemistry and Photobiology says that staring at LED screens for long periods of time leads to retina cell damage. And retina damage is the biggest reason for blindness. The blue light emitted by computer screens and digital devices lead to digital eyestrain, the symptoms of which are eye fatigue, dry eyes, irritated eyes and blurred vision.
The problem, however, is that most of us do not have the luxury of giving up digital devices and computer screens completely as we are deeply dependent on them for our work and entertainment. So the next best recourse is to do a little bit more for our eyes so that they can remain in their best health given our working and living conditions. Here is a list of ways in which you can care for your eyes.
We have added a few home remedies and Ayurvedic therapies here, do note that the information is not for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. Please consult a medical professional for any eye condition that you may be having.
Get a complete eye check-up done
Make an appointment with your eye doctor today even if your vision is clear and you think your eyes are in great shape. A comprehensive dilated eye exam is the only way to check if you have eye diseases such as glaucoma, diabetic eye disease and age-related macular degeneration. These serious eye diseases often have no symptoms and this is the only way to catch them. An eye exam will also tell you if you need to correct your vision with spectacles or contact lenses. At the exam, your eye doctor will put a few drops in your eyes to widen your pupils so more light gets in and she can peer right to the back of your eyes to see if all is okay.
When you go for an eye exam, do tell your doctor about your medical history and that of your family. At the eye exam your doctor will check if you have myopia (nearsightedness), presbyopia (farsighted/ age-related vision changes) or astigmatism (a curved cornea causing blurred vision). He will also check and see if your eyes work in sync, and do tests for eye pressure, optic nerve health and glaucoma.
Unplug your devices
Give your eyes a holiday from your assorted digital devices. As we mentioned earlier, too much screen time can seriously damage your eyes. If you have a job that requires you to stare at a screen all day, take a break every 20 minutes or so, to look away 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds. It doesn’t count if avert your gaze from your computer screen only to glance at your phone! Also make it a point to consciously blink frequently and adjust the backlight so that your eyes are not strained by the glare. Make sure you are wearing your prescription lenses or glasses when looking at the screen so that you don’t overstrain your eyes. Look down at your computer screen and not up at it and avoid reflected glare from windows for lights on your screen. Place an anti-glare screen on your monitor if needed.
Place two pads of cotton wood soaked in rose water over your lids and relax for 10 minutes. This will soothe your tired eyes. After this try a yoga exercise called palming that relieves stress.
Rub your palms together till they are warm.
Close your eyes and place the palm of your left hand over your left eye and the right palm over the right eye. Rest your palms on your eyes gently and don’t press your eyeballs with them. Repeat 2-3 times while breathing in and out slowly.
For dry and overstrained eyes, Ayurveda recommends eating stewed apples, sprouted chickpeas, and raw carrot. Also drinking plenty of water is key as it prevents you from getting dehydrated. Avoid caffeine rich drinks.
Be aware of your family’s eye health history
Many eye problems are genetic in nature and being aware of the eye conditions that have plagued your family members will help determine if you are at higher risk for certain conditions. Certain conditions like age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, retinal degeneration, and optic atrophy, are hereditary, and if you are at risk for these you can start taking precautions early on in life.
Eat healthy to retain good vision
What you eat matters a great deal when it comes to your eye health. Remember all those times in your childhood when you mom would ask you to gobble up those carrots? Well, it turns out that she may have had a point. Carrots have beta-carotene that converts to eye-friendly vitamin A.
Eating plenty fruits and vegetables is key to good eye health. Make sure that you get your nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zinc, and vitamins C and E. Pile up your plate with dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, or collard greens that are high in antioxidants and essential nutrients like vitamin A and vitamin C along with iron and calcium; fish high in omega-3 fatty acids like such as salmon, tuna, and halibut; Eggs, nuts, beans, and other non-meat protein sources; citrus fruits like oranges that are rich in vitamin B-12, vitamin C and beta-carotene; oysters and pork.
Ayurveda recommends that you add the following in your diet to keep your peepers healthy. For instance Amla, rich in Vitamin C, boosts immunity and improves eyesight. Milk and almonds are also recommended. While milk has riboflavin and vitamin A that reduces the chance of getting a cataract, almonds contain vitamin E that is great for weak eyes. Get the best of both by making a drink with ground almonds, sugar, fennel and warm milk. According to Ayurveda, chewing a pod of cardamom with a spoon of honey, also helps the eyesight.
Keep a check on your weight
You might not think that your eye health has anything to do with how much you weigh, but it does. Being overweight increases your chances of getting Type 2 diabetes that is a leading cause of blindness in adults. Obesity ups your chances of getting diabetic eye disease or glaucoma.
Research has shown that smokers are more prone to getting cataracts, damaged optic nerve, and macular degeneration. So kick the butt today. Consult your medical practitioner for help if you have trouble quitting.
Protect your eyes
Sunglasses are not just a fancy fashion accessory but fulfil an important role in protecting your eyes as well. Invest in a good quality pair that comes with UV-resistant glasses. Look for a pair that blocks out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation. Eyes that are exposed too much to ultraviolet rays are prone to cataract and macular degeneration. If you want further protection, get a wraparound pair that blocks UV rays from the side as well and polarised lenses that cut out glare. And if you wear contact lenses, then you should definitely wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the elements.
Besides sunglasses, you should also but protective eyewear that shields your eyes when you are playing sports or working in front of the computer. A range of protective eyewear like safety glasses, safety shields, and eye guards are available in the market.
Incorrect, unhygienic use of contact lenses can give you serious eye infections that could even lead to blindness. Never ever take your eye hygiene and contact lens protocol lightly. Doing this ensures that you are not transferring a host of icky germs from your hands to your eyes.
For starters, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water and then dry them on a lint-free towel. Make sure that your hands are dry because certain infections get transferred from wet hands. For instance, Irenie Ekkeshis, who is campaigning to raise awareness about the dangers of tap water on contact lenses, was left blind in an eye after she developed developing Acanthamoeba Keratitis (AK), a rare infection that is cused by a germ found in tap water, sea water and swimming pools. AK mostly affects contact lens wearers. Ekkeshis suggests that one should never let lenses come in contact with water in the shower, swimming or when washing. It is also not okay to wet you lenses with saliva as it is teeming with germs.
Do use your lenses as instructed by your doctor or optometrist. Some thumb rules to follow include not sleeping with them still in your eyes. This is important because your eyes need oxygen, which they get from your tears and the air. When you sleep with your contacts on, your cornea is being deprived of this essential oxygen, first by your closed lids and then the plastic barrier. And when your eyes don’t get enough oxygen it could lead your to develop a condition called corneal neovascularisation. In addition to this, you would develop redness, irritation, pain and increased sensitivity to light. Often the lenses get stuck to the cornea and pulling them out by force causes tears on the eye surface. This could result in eye infection, inflammation or abrasions.
Another big no-no when using contact lenses is to use expired contact lens solution. A solution that is past its use-by date could be contaminated leading to serious infections and ultimately blindness. Make sure that you wash and dry your lens case with saline solution every time you use it. Fill it with fresh multipurpose solution every time and don’t just top off the old solution. Never reuse contact lens solution. Do remember to rub you lenses clean of debris so that you lenses can work better at killing the organisms. And lastly, make sure that you use a sterile saline solution only for rinsing and never for disinfecting. Do keep track of any discomfort in your eyes and see an eye doctor immediately is that is the case.
Keep your hands off your eyes
Don’t keep touching and rubbing your eyes constantly as that transfers all the germs from your less-than-sterile hands to your eyes. Rubbing your eyes vigorously can give you corneal abrasions. Got a particle in your eye? Just gently wash it out with a sterile saline solution
Yoga for the eyes
There are certain exercises in yoga that are beneficial for the eyes. Try this one: Sit with your legs crossed and your spine, neck and head in alignment. Look straight ahead at eye-level and breathe slowly. Move your eyes upwards and hold for a count of two. Look down for two seconds and close them for two seconds. Then look to your right for two seconds followed by to the left for two seconds. Look to the front and close your eyes for five seconds. Do this entire circuit four times daily.
If your eyes feel dry, wash your eyes with lukewarm water 10 times. Drink a decoction of fennel seeds boiled in water till it is reduced to half daily. This is a great remedy for tired bloodshot eyes.
You could also place cooled tea bags or chilled cotton balls dipped in rose water over your lids for 10 minutes to soothe your tired peepers. Chilled slices of cucumber on your lids also work wonders. Raw potato juice or cooled potato slices on your lids help treat tired eyes and dark circles. Do it daily till you feel a difference.