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Protect Your Eyes

Your eyes are among your most important organs. Your eyes not only let you see shapes and depth and millions of colors, but also help manage the light signals that keep your body’s internal clock running properly.

Your eyes are also among the most vulnerable parts of your body, and they need your protection to maintain and improve your eyesight.

While you may be aware that you should always wear protective glasses during activities such as woodworking and landscaping, there are other ways to protect your eyes and keep them healthy every day.

1. Wear Sunglasses with Complete Ultraviolet Protection

Let’s start with the obvious one – sunglasses. You already know that you should protect your skin from ultraviolet radiation (UVR) and our eyes need similar protection. UVR comes from the sun and may also be reflected off surfaces such as water or sand.

The best way to protect your eyes from UVR exposure is to purchase and consistently wear sunglasses with 100-percent protection against both UVA and UVB rays, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Many inexpensive brands of sunglasses offer this protection, so you have a wide variety of choices. Remember to wear them even on cloudy days.

The Medical Details: Too much exposure to UVR can cause photokeratitis or photo conjunctivitis (more commonly known as “snow blindness”) in the short-term. Continual UVR exposure, particularly exposure to UVB rays, may cause cataracts development,  or skin cancer of the eyelids.

2. Use Goggles at the Pool

If you have not gone swimming in a few months, the first dip into the pool can feel awful on your eyes. The chlorine, designed to protect you from exposure to germs, has the potential to hurt your eyes.The simplest solution for protection is to wear goggles every time you go to swim in a pool. This also applies to swimming in the ocean or other natural bodies of water, as they contain other contaminants that may hurt your eyes.

The Medical Details: A 2008 study revealed that frequent exposure to chlorine negatively affects the integrity of your corneal epithelium. The epithelium provides a layer of protection to your cornea from irritants and pathogens. If that protection is compromised, you have an increased likelihood of corneal abrasion or other eye injuries.

3. Wash Hands and Avoid Rubbing Your Eyes

Studies indicate that the best way to protect yourself from the spread of communicable disease is simply to wash your hands on a regular basis. This practice is crucial to avoid contracting eye-related conditions such as conjunctivitis. You often develop conjunctivitis after touching something that someone else has touched after they rubbed their eyes.

When you have conjunctivitis, be sure to wash your hands after putting in eye drops or ointment, to avoid spreading the disease to others.

4. Wear Hats

Even if you wear sunglasses every time you go outside, you are not offering complete UVR protection to your eyes and eyelids. Sunglasses usually have gaps along the sides where UVR exposure occurs. While you wear your sunglasses, minimize your risk and add a hat with a brim at least 3 inches wide. Consistent use of hats and sunglasses significantly decrease your UVR exposure.

The Medical Details: Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is a form of skin cancer that typically affects the eyelids, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. While it most commonly occurs on the lower eyelid, the site of most frequent exposure, it can also develop in the corners of the eye or under the eyebrows. While BCC does not usually spread to other parts of the body, it can certainly spread to the eye itself.

5. Protect Against Chemicals

While people are more likely to sustain chemical burns to their eyes while at work, there are several opportunities to hurt your eyes in non-occupational tasks, as well.

• Hand or body soap bubbles that pop near your eyes
• Spray paint that blows back into your face
• Splashing cleaning solutions

These are all circumstances which can cause a chemical burn on your eyes; some more severe than others. You can prevent chemical exposure by taking appropriate precautions. Wear protective goggles or protective eyewear whenever you are working with any kind of toxic chemicals. Take care to handle solutions delicately, so that they do not splash.

6. Keep Children Safe and Start Young with Eye Protection

Too many people realize in adulthood that they should have thought of protecting their eyes when they were young. It is never too early to start with your children, however. The World Health Organization notes that as much as 80 percent of a person’s lifetime UVR exposure occurs prior to the age of 18. That is because children are far more likely to spend time playing outside, particularly during the warmer months. Thankfully, the solution is much the same as it is for adults. Apply regular sunscreen, particularly on your child’s face. Add a hat with a wide brim and comfortable sunglasses

The Medical Details: A child’s ocular lenses do not filter out UV light as efficiently as an adult’s, according to The Vision Council. This means that children can sustain eye damage more readily.

7. Wear eye protection during outdoor activities

If you have ever had dust or sand in your eye, you know that chemical exposure is not the only environmental threat to your eyes. You should try to protect yourself, as much as practically possible, from contact with foreign bodies that can cause abrasions to your eye.

Most corneal injuries heal in a day or two without too much pain or difficulty. However, some environments, such as woodworking or yardwork, present a higher risk of long-term injury. Always look to prevention first, through the use of glasses or other personal protective equipment to shield your face and eyes from potential damage. Remember that certain medical eye conditions, such as chronic dry eyes, increase your risk of corneal abrasion. Seeking dry eye treatment or corneal exams from Barnet Dulaney Perkins Eye Center ensures that your eyes get the best care.

8. Eat Healthy and Drink Plenty of Water

You may be surprised to learn that what you eat has the power to affect how well you see. It’s not just carrots.

There are many foods rich in nutrients that improve your eyesight and help prevent the development of long-term vision problems. Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants known to help resist macular degeneration and cataracts. Adding a supplement or foods high in Vitamin C, Vitamin E and zinc can assist those with symptoms of age; they help slow or prevent the progression of symptoms.

Additionally, during the summer, people are more likely to become dehydrated, which can affect their eyes. Serious dehydration makes it harder for the body to produce tears, leading to dry eye  symptoms and other vision problems. Drinking plenty of water each day can prevent and reverse many of the negative effects of dehydration, as well as providing fluid for normal eye function.

9. Use eye drops

Sometimes, despite your best attempts, you need to use some kind of eye drops to minimize pain or manage other eye problems. This can be especially true for those going through glaucoma surgery recovery.

If you have allergies that make your eyes feel tired or excessively dry, you may also benefit from ketotifen eye drops. However, you should also consult a qualified ophthalmologist to discuss a chronic need for eye drops. Dry eye symptoms may arise from temporary exposure to contaminants, or they could be a sign of something more serious.

10. Get Adequate Sleep

Although you know how important it is to get a good night’s rest, you may find it hard to get the sleep you need, particularly with a busy lifestyle. However, your eyes are counting on you to be rested.

In 2008, researchers discovered that people who have been awake as little as 18 hours start to suffer decreased cognition on visual tasks. This might not seem like a big problem until you realize that you need visual acuity to drive safely or attend to potentially dangerous activities like cooking or caring for children. Additionally, when you are tired, your eyes are more likely to feel dry. This encourages you to rub your eyes to stimulate the lacrimal gland, which increases the likelihood of exposure to irritants and diseases. The best way you can keep yourself alert and safe is to aim for a full night of sleep every night.

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