If you’re a woman who’s health-conscious, you probably make an effort to exercise daily, eat a balanced diet, watch your weight and cholesterol, and get adequate rest.

But in the quest for healthy bodies, it’s easy to neglect one of the most important parts of them: our eyes.

Just as our muscles benefit from strength training and our hearts benefit from cardiovascular exercise, our eyes too benefit from particular kinds of care. 

To help keep your eyes happy and healthy, these are some of the best ways to give what might be the most overlooked part of your body the TLC it deserves.

Treat yourself to eye care in a cup. Did you know there’s more in your favorite cup of caffeinated tea than a little morning “bump” or pleasant afternoon “buzz”? 

A recent study reported in the British Journal of Opthamology has linked drinking a daily cup of caffeinated tea to a whopping 74% decrease in being diagnosed with glaucoma, a condition where pressure builds up inside the eye that may damage the optic nerve and, in extreme cases, lead to blindness.  (Leave it to the Brits – one of the world’s largest tea consumers and practically the inventors of teatime as we know it today – to scientifically correlate teatime and eye health.)

Unfortunately, the study found no correlation in decreased risk for glaucoma with drinking any other kind of beverage, caffeinated or otherwise, so at least in the interest of eye health, forego coffee, energy drinks, herbal tea, or diet soda in favor of caffeinated teas.

Minimize digital eye strain. View your desktop computer at a distance of approximately an arm’s length away. When using your smartphone or tablet, it’s easiest on your eyes to view it from 16 to 20 inches away. By using these devices at the ideal distance you decrease stress to the binocular and focusing systems and place less accommodative and convergence demands on your eyes.

When viewing your digital screen, the angle of your eyesight should be slightly down rather than neutral or upward, since viewing a screen that it situated too high puts unnecessary strain on both your eyes and neck. Also avoid angling your device screen in such a way that light is directly reflected, resulting in glare. 

Keep your eyes undercover. As a health-conscious woman, you probably take care to shield your skin from UV damage, but keep in mind that your eyes need the same protection. (Excessive sun exposure can damage your eyes and increase your chances of developing cataracts and age-related macular degeneration – the leading causes of blindness in people over 60). Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses year round that block both UVA and UVB radiation. (Whether it’s glare off sand, snow, glass buildings, or even the car in front of you, sunglasses aren’t just for summer.) 

When shopping for sunglasses, look for lenses that block 100 percent of UVA and UVB light and that are large enough to completely shield your eyes and surrounding skin. Especially look for polarized lenses, as this feature is responsible for eliminating glare (rather than just attenuating brightness as non-polarized lenses do) and allows you to continue to experience vivid color, contrast, and sharpness. 

Ease allergy symptoms. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so identifying and avoiding the triggering allergen should constitute your first line of defense. Limiting – or eliminating – your exposure by staying inside on peak pollen days and investing in a quality air purifier can pay big dividends. And immunotherapy, a treatment administered by an allergy specialist, can help you build up your resistance over time to irritants that would otherwise trigger an allergic reaction.

Contact lenses can prove particularly bothersome during allergy season for some wearers due to their tendency to attract airborne allergens. If you’ve got a choice, consider switching to glasses during allergy season and choosing a pair with light-shielding photochromic lenses. If you’re not keen on the idea of glasses, you might opt for daily wear contact lenses which never accumulate allergen build-up due to their extremely short use-life. 

Replace your contact lens case. Many contact lens wearers are unaware that over time the case develops an invisible bio-film that is a source of contamination. Contact lens cases cost only a few dollars to replace and can be found at any drugstore, so there’s no defensible excuse not to replace them every three months.

If you wear lenses sporadically, disinfect them before you wear them. If it’s been days, weeks, or even months since you last wore your contact lenses, don’t assume the solution in the case they’re stored in is sterile – it’s almost certainly not. The minute or two you’ll save by failing to disinfect your lenses before wearing them isn’t worth the severe eye infection it could cost you. 

Don’t suffer for beauty. Stick with hypo-allergenic eye cosmetics, and when it comes to eyeshadow, opt for cream rather than powder versions. (Powders are much, much more likely to “migrate” and irritate eyes.) Generally speaking, the more cheaply an eyeshadow is produced, the least pigment dense it will be, resulting in a product that not only appears “chalky” but which is much more “dusty” in consistency since it is composed primarily of inferior filler that does not adhere well to the eyelid. 

Eyeliners and mascara, provided they’re hypoallergenic, tend to pose less problems than does eyeshadow, but to minimize risk of irritation, generally choose mascaras without lash-lengthening micro-fibers. (These fibers tend to flake and and migrate.)

Find the courage to quit. While smoking is an understandable self-soothing behavior, it is a costly one. People who smoke are up to four times more likely to go blind in their later years. Smoking dramatically increases the risk of developing age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts and can damage the optic nerve. The smoke generated by cigarettes is also a significant eye irritant. Ask for help if you need to quit. You can do it!

Get close. Most everybody knows that close relationships contribute to happiness, but science is proving that close relationships lead to better health overall, including eye health, as reported in JAMA Ophthalmology.

Researchers at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center found that older adults with multiple, close social connections were markedly more likely to receive cataract surgery. (A procedure that brings with it a host of other health and quality-of-life benefits, including a reduced risk of falls and cognitive decline.)

At EyeCare 20/20, we’re full-service vision health providers who make it our business to ensure you have happy and healthy eyes. For any of your eye care needs from corrective eyewear to permanent vision correction through LAIK to dry eye treatment, give us a call today and see why we’re known as being the friendliest, most comprehensive, and most advanced eye care providers around!

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