By age 65, nearly one in three people in the United States has some form of vision loss or impairment. Though many uncontrollable factors cause vision problems as we age, there are also some controllable factors. As Healthy Aging Eyes Month rolls around, it’s important to recognize these harmful habits and make a change!
Smoking hurts your body in many ways—from causing cancer to contributing to heart disease. But, its effects on eye health are less discussed. Studies show that smoking severely increases the risks of many eye diseases. For example, those who smoke are four times more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition that damages the center of the retina and is the leading cause of vision loss in the elderly. Smoking is so damaging to eyes that even secondhand exposure doubles the risk of developing AMD.
Feeling an itch on your eyes? Ignore the urge to rub it. Ocular tissues can respond to external forces. For example, excessive rubbing is a risk factor for keratoconus from the force of repeated rubbing as well as for “pink eye,” or conjunctivitis, from bacteria and viruses on your hands. While treatable, keratoconus causes blurry vision that cannot be cured. Pink eye can lead to serious, vision-threatening complications if not treated properly. If you have itchy eyes, there could be a number of causes—from allergies to dry eye. If you are struggling with itchy eyes, apply a cold compress as an alternative to rubbing them. And, if irritation persists, visit your eye care professional for help.
In recent years, poor diets have been linked to higher rates of some eye conditions, like AMD. Implementing more vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and nuts are all excellent ways to improve your health. Your body needs food that contains substances like vitamin C, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids in order to function properly. Your eyes depend on arteries for oxygen and nutrients, so keeping your arteries healthy with these antioxidants helps keep your eyes healthy. Implement these changes to save yourself from trouble later on.
Smoking, rubbing your eyes, and eating unhealthily are some habits that are detrimental to eye health. Although quitting smoking may be more difficult than the other habits, it’s an important step to reduce a list of diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataracts. You can expect great changes when you replace these damaging habits with healthy ones. Your eyes will thank you!