Most adults between the ages of 19 and 40 enjoy healthy eyes and good vision. The most common eye and vision problems for people in this age group are due to visual stress and eye injuries. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle and protecting your eyes from stress and injury, you can avoid many eye and vision problems.
Good vision is important as you pursue a college degree, begin your career, or perhaps start and raise a family. Here are some things you can do to maintain healthy eyes and good vision:
- Protect your eyes from short-wavelength visible light. Most digital devices and newer LED and fluorescent lights emit more wavelengths near the shorter, or bluer, part of the spectrum. High and continual exposure to these wavelengths can cause slow damage to the retina, which may result in problems like age-related macular degeneration later in life. Special glasses and lens coatings are available to block short-wavelength visible light.
- Protect your eyes from the sun. The sun emits harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays that can damage your eyes over the long term. Choose sunglasses with UV-A and UV-B protection with adequate coverage. Additionally, use sunscreen around the delicate skin around your eyes, and wear a hat or visor in addition to sunglasses to improve protection.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking exposes your eyes to high levels of noxious chemicals and increases the risk for developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts.
- Eat a balanced diet. As part of a healthful diet, eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Choose foods rich in antioxidants, like leafy, green vegetables and fish.
- Get regular exercise. Exercise improves blood circulation, increases oxygen levels to the eyes and helps remove toxins.
- Get an eye examination annually. Although vision generally remains stable during these years, problems may develop without any obvious signs or symptoms. The best way to protect your vision is through regularly scheduled professional eye examinations.
The American Optometric Association recommends that adults aged 19 to 40 receive an eye exam at least every two years. If you are at risk for eye problems due to a family history of eye disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or past vision problems, your doctor of optometry may recommend more frequent exams. In between examinations, contact your doctor if you notice a change in your vision. Detecting and treating problems early can help maintain good vision for the rest of your life.
Dealing with Visual Stress at School or on the Job
Eyestrain is common in today’s visually demanding world. A typical college schedule or office workday involves long hours reading, working at a desk or staring at a computer. A poorly designed study or work environment that includes improper lighting, uncomfortable seating, incorrect viewing angles and improper reading or working distances can add to the visual stress. As the day progresses, the eyes begin to fatigue, and eyestrain and discomfort can develop.
The following are key signs of eyestrain:
- Sore or tired eyes
- Itching or burning sensations in the eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Dry or watery eyes
- Difficulty focusing
Here are some simple steps you can take to minimize eyestrain, particularly during computer work:
- Adjust your computer in your work space. Position the top of your computer monitor below eye level so you look slightly downward at the screen. This will help minimize strain on the eyes and the neck. If you are typing from copy, position the text at the same level as the screen. Adjust the screen brightness so it is most comfortable for you. Avoid glare on the computer screen by wearing anti-reflective lenses, adjusting window curtains or blinds, repositioning the monitor or using a glare reduction filter on your screen. Wear special glasses or lens coatings that block short-wavelength visible light if you use digital devices for many hours during the day.
- Use proper lighting. Examine the lighting in your work area. Overhead lights can be harsh and often are brighter than necessary. Consider turning off some lights for a more comfortable lighting situation. Use an adjustable shaded lamp to provide specific task lighting as needed.
- Take rest breaks. Use the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look 20 away for 20 seconds. This allows your eyes to readjust. Consider standing up and walking around or doing alternate tasks that do not require extensive near focusing. Blink often to refresh the eyes and use artificial tear solutions, if necessary.
- Maintain proper posture. When seated at a desk, make sure your feet are flat on the floor. Use an adjustable chair that provides adequate support for your back. When working at a computer, your arms should form a 90-degree angle at the elbows, and your hands should be tilted up slightly to allow your fingers to travel freely over the keyboard.
Making these simple adjustments to your study or work area can do a lot to prevent or reduce eyestrain. If you continue to experience eye-related symptoms, you may have a vision problem that requires treatment. Ask your optometrist.
Ensuring Eye Safety at Work, Home or Play
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that about 2,000 U.S. workers sustain job-related eye injuries that require medical treatment each day. But many eye injuries occur at home: Nearly 60 percent of all product-related eye injuries occur in and around the home, according to Prevent Blindness America.
Any injury to the eye can potentially cause some vision loss or even blindness. Fortunately, proper eye protection can lessen or prevent most eye injuries.
Chemical burns, foreign objects in the eye, and cuts and scrapes of the cornea can occur when working in a factory, on a construction site, on a farm or in a laboratory. Common causes of injuries include:
- splashes with chemicals, grease and oil
- burns from steam
- ultraviolet or infrared radiation exposure
- flying wood or metal chips
Not all safety eyewear provides the same level of protection from flying objects, chemical splashes or radiation exposure. Make sure you wear the appropriate protection for the type of eye hazards in your workplace.
Using common sense can help protect the eyes at home. Following manufacturer’s instructions and safety warnings can prevent many household product-related eye injuries.
Wear eye protection while performing the following household activities:
- Cleaning the oven or using other strong household chemicals
- Chopping wood or doing woodworking
- Using motorized equipment or power tools like lawn trimmers and electric drills
- Jump-starting a car battery
Many home building and hardware stores sell nonprescription safety goggles. If you wear prescription glasses, ask your optometrist to recommend appropriate safety eyewear for household tasks.
Sprained ankles, skinned knees and bruises are common occurrences in sports. Unfortunately, so are injuries to the eye.
Regular eyeglasses and contact lenses do not offer adequate protection from sports-related eye injuries. Use special eye protection when playing basketball, football, hockey, baseball and racquet sports. Your optometrist can advise you on the appropriate eyewear for each sport.
Protecting Your Eyes from the Sun
Even on an overcast day, harmful UV rays can damage both the skin and the surface of the eye. Over time, unprotected sun exposure can increase the risk of certain types of cataracts and cancers of the eyelids. UV, as well as blue light, can damage the retina, the light-sensitive lining at the back of the eye. This damage can lead to significant vision loss.
UV damage occurs over your lifetime, so it’s never too late to begin protecting your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays. The following tips can help prevent eye damage from exposure to UV radiation:
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat or cap. It can block up to half of the UV radiation. It can also reduce the amount of radiation that can enter from above or around sunglasses.
- Wear sunglasses any time your eyes are exposed to UV radiation, even on cloudy days and during winter months.
- Look for quality sunglasses that offer good protection. Sunglasses should block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation and screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light.