Your eyes are the windows to your soul. You can have eagle eyes, bedroom eyes or a twinkle in your eyes. There are literally dozens of sayings that involve our eyes. Why? Because they speak volumes about how we feel, they can be among our most attractive features and of course they are key to our sight.
But while we think about makeup and frames to enhance the way they look, how often do we think about enhancing the way they work?
We’ve talked about how wearing glasses won’t make your eyesight worse but what can we do to help make our vision better? Beyond wearing the proper prescription glasses there are some simple ways we can all take better care of our all-important eyes.
DIET AND EXERCISE
Although diet and exercise won’t cure any eye condition, the things we eat can make a difference. There are numerous reasons a healthy diet is important to living a better life, but did you know it can also have a positive impact on your eyes?
You may have heard people (like your mom) say that carrots are good for your eyes. They actually are! It’s because of the vitamins and carotenoids they contain. Fortunately, carrots aren’t the only way to get these valuable nutrients.
Infusing diet with vitamins and minerals will provide your body with the natural building blocks it needs to stay healthy and help protect your vision. Vitamins A, C and E, along with the mineral Zinc, help to prevent your eyes from developing a condition where the macula (the part of your eye that controls central vision) deteriorates. You can find these vitamins and minerals in foods like carrots, broccoli, spinach, strawberries, sweet potato, citrus fruits, and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon. These vitamins and minerals, along with a healthy consumption of antioxidants, will also help to protect your retinas (the light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of your eyes).
Did you ever hear that carrots can help you see at night, probably also from your mom trying to get you to eat them? That’s sort of true. While there’s no vegetable that can give us goggle-quality night vision but our bodies do use vitamin A to synthesize rhodopsin. That is the pigment in our eyes that help them operate in low-light conditions. So they won’t help you see in the dark exactly, but they can help prevent night blindness.
Carotenoids (that live in carrots and other foods) are the fat soluble organic pigments that are also good for your eyes. Two of these are called Lutein and Zeaxanthin and they help protect the macula, improve pigment density in the eye, and help to absorb UV and blue light. These carotenoids also happen to be found in leafy greens, broccoli, zucchini and eggs, but if you or your child is a picky eater they can also be taken as a supplement!
In addition to a healthy diet, regular exercise and a healthy weight can also be good for your eyes. Both diet and exercise help your body to maintain stable blood sugar levels and lower your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is most common in those who are overweight, and the disease can lead to Diabetic Retinopathy (which is when the small arteries of the retina leak blood into the eye and harm your vision). So we can add eye health to the list of reasons to stay active and eat well.
REST YOUR EYES
You know how sometimes sleep is called “shut-eye”? Well, there’s a good reason for that. Getting adequate sleep and rest is essential for your eyes. Like with the rest of your body, sleep gives your eyes the time it needs to fully rest, and heal from daily stressors. If you don’t get your full 8 hours, your vision may not be as sharp as when you’re fully rested and you might notice more strain on your eyes than usual.
You should also give your eyes a rest when they’re working extra hard, like when you’re reading or working on the computer for extended periods of time. So give your eyes a break from time to time. Let them rest for about 10 minutes, for every 50 minutes you spend doing any eye straining activity. Don’t work for more than 2-3 hours at a time without a break, and if you can, take an hour to really let your eyes fully rest during the day. Keep in mind though that taking a break from your computer screen to look at your cell phone, doesn’t really count.
During your 10 minute breaks throughout the day, try to focus on things that are farther away from you so your eyes can get a break from focusing on things so close. So if you usually read a book during your break from your computer/desk job, you might want to find an alternative that will let your eyes rest a little more. If your eyes are feeling overtired, you can use the old cucumber slices over your eyelids trick, they help to reduce puffiness, swelling and irritation. The folic acid in cucumbers also helps to stimulate antioxidant activity.
EYE EXERCISES AND REDUCING EYE STRAIN
Although there are claims that eye exercises can improve vision, there are no studies that prove them to be helpful in improving eye conditions. These exercises may not help with conditions like myopia, hyperopia or astigmatisms, but they can help with eye strain. “Digital Eye Strain” in particular is becoming increasingly common for people who work on a computer or spend a significant amount of time focusing on a screen. This condition can cause significant eye strain, dry eyes, blurred vision, headaches, issues with focusing at distances, and other physical discomforts. Incorporating eye exercises into your daily routine can help to alleviate some of these symptoms. Eye exercises are easy to do, take very little time, and can be done from your desk if needed. Some easy ones are:
Hold a small object such as a pen (or your finger) in front of your face, then slowly move it away while retaining focus. Then gradually bring it back towards your face (until it’s about 6” away) while still retaining focus. Repeat.
WRITE OUT ABC’S
Using your eyes, draw out the alphabet from A to Z. Make sure you’re “drawing” the letters out large enough that you can feel your eyes getting a good range of motion. If you’re in a time crunch or worried that your unusual eye movements will draw strange looks from your co-workers, shorten the exercise to just drawing out your name instead of the entire alphabet.
UP, DOWN, AND AROUND
Move your eyes to look up (without moving your head) and then do the same looking down. Repeat a few times and then move your eyes in a slow circle going clockwise, followed by a slow circle going counterclockwise. This is good for range of motion and circulation.
Following the 20-20-20 Rule can also prove helpful. For every 20 minutes you spend focusing on a book or screen, take a break to focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This gives your eyes a nice break in between periods of focusing on your computer (or book) and doing your eye exercises. Taking breaks to do quick eye exercises periodically is beneficial not only to your vision, but they can also be a good excuse to take a mental break from working and can help increase productivity.
Although there are no magic pills or tricks that can totally improve or heal your vision, making conscious choices to live an overall healthier lifestyle, being aware of how you’re protecting and treating your eyes on a daily basis, and getting regular eye exams can truly help you have the best vision possible.
If you’re interested in making drastic improvements to your eyesight without laser surgery or implants, consider one of our favorite procedures, orthokeratology (Ortho-K).
Ortho-K involves the creation of custom rigid contacts lenses that are used to reshape of the cornea and improve eyesight. The difference between these lenses and daily wear is that ortho-k contacts are intended to be worn at night while you are sleeping and removed upon waking up.
The lenses can then correct near-sightedness (myopia), far-sightedness (hyperopia) and even astigmatism. The nighttime lenses gently change the shape of your cornea over time, and because they are removed in the morning you can go about your day, lens free, with clear vision. With consistent use, the ortho-k lenses can help improve vision for longer periods of time. Finally, one of the best aspects of Ortho-k is that it is safe for kids as well as adults.
Next time you have an eye exam, ask your doctor, or schedule a free consultation with an expert who will help you explore your options. Speaking of experts, in all things eye related it’s good to trust the professionals.
YOUR OPTOMETRIST KNOWS BEST
As with any other doctor, you should schedule a visit with your optometrist at least once a year, and have a comprehensive dilated eye exam every few years. Many serious eye conditions (like glaucoma) have no early symptoms, so even if you haven’t noticed any changes in your vision, annual exams are necessary. Your optometrist, or ophthalmologist, can track the progression of any vision issues you may be having. But in your everyday life, use healthy diet, plenty of sleep, frequent screen breaks and a few simple exercises to keep your eyes sharp and comfortable.