November / 2006
Your Health

Growing healthy eyes
by: Matt Cantor

Getting your eyes checked frequently by an ophthalmologist or eye care specialist is one of the best ways to keep your eyes healthy. Your eye care specialist can detect and treat diseases, as well as correct any vision problems or changes you’ve experienced. How often you should have an eye exam depends on such factors as age and overall health, but a safe time frame is once a year.

“It is a good idea to have your eyes checked at least every year, or even more frequently if you have a family history of eye problems, such as glaucoma or cataracts,” says Dr. Douglas Katz, assistant professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital.

Protecting your eyes
While most people are aware of the skin problems that can result from overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, few know of the harmful effects UV rays can have on their eyes. Wearing sunglasses, even during winter, is high on the list of ways you can protect your eyes and vision. Sunglasses that provide 99 to 100 percent UV-A and UV-B protection greatly reduce the amount of harmful rays that can reach the eye.

“Excessive UV exposure has been associated with cataracts and other eye disease and damage, as well as skin cancer around the eyes,” Katz says. It’s also important to remember to wear sunglasses even on overcast days and cool days, as clouds do not completely reduce UV levels.

Another important way to care for your eyes is to put on protective eyewear when playing sports or working outdoors, especially when raking leaves or chopping firewood.

Preventing eye infections
Conjunctivitis, more commonly known as pinkeye, is an eye infection that can be caused by a virus, bacteria, allergic reaction, chemical, or irritant. Pinkeye that is caused by viruses and bacteria can easily pass from person to person. To avoid spreading pinkeye, always practice good hygiene by washing your hands often, and never share makeup or eye drops with anyone else.

Tips for healthy eyes
Don’t smoke. This dangerous habit deprives your body of essential nutrients in preventing certain eye diseases.

Eat healthy meals. Eat at least three to four servings of fruits and vegetables every day. In particular, leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale can especially benefit your eyes. These foods contain lutein, an antioxidant that can prevent vision loss, and improve and help prevent eye disease.

Remember, if you have sudden pain, sensitivity, discomfort, redness, or blurred vision, see your doctor or eye care specialist right away.

Matt Cantor is an information specialist with the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center.