Perhaps you’re one of the lucky ones with 20/20 vision. But if you don’t protect that vision, you can lose it without even realising it. Look out for the discerning eye-damaging habits and ways to protect your them.
1. Neglecting protective eye wear
“Any sport in which balls, racquets or flying objects are present pose a potential eye injury,” says Gary Heiting, O.D., a licensed optometrist and senior editor of allaboutvision.com. Close contact activities, such as basketball and swimming, also up your risk of being poked in the eye by stray fingers and elbows. At the very least, you’d have to sit out your turn while nursing a bruised eye or scraped cornea. At worse, retinal tears, retinal detachments and orbital fractures aren’t just painful, they could also result in full or partial loss of sight and traumatic glaucoma, cautions Dr. Khor Sim Ee, a consultant Ophthalmologist at Petaling Jaya’s Tropicana Medical Centre.
Outsmart it: Wear safety goggles, shields or eye guards
“Always wear protective eye wear when you’re engaging in any sporting activities,” Dr. Khor advises. Check that goggles for high speed activities such as handball do not have small opening in place of lenses. The high speed of handballs causes the ball to compress and protrude into the opening, Dr. Heiting explains, causing serious eye damage. Outdoors, polycarbonate lenses are your best as they’re typically scratch-resistant and offer built-in ultraviolet protection.
2. Gaming, watching videos or reading on a tablet late into the night
“Some studies have shown that long term cumulative exposure to blue wavelength light may be one of the contributory risk factors for senile macular degeneration,” says Dr. Khor. How this happens is that high energy, short wavelength blue light induces photo-oxidative damage to the retina that isn’t unlike the changes brought about by age-related macular degeneration. Night-time light exposure also suppresses your body’s production of melatonin, leading to poor sleep and a higher risk of cancer and immune system disorders.
Outsmart it: Protect your eyes
Invest in a pair of glasses with lenses that block blue light from entering your retina; especially if you’re short-sighted (myopic people have thinner retinas). Otherwise, avoid looking at bright screens two to three hours before bedtime and switch off all light in the room once you’re ready to hit the sack. Use warm, white light tubes whenever possible if you have young children or siblings under the age of 20, as they’re more susceptible to blue light retinal exposure compared to adults.
3. Staying in an inverted position for too long
While yogic mythology and acrobatic handbooks laud the accomplishment of headstands and shoulder stands, holding inversions too often and for too long- “just because I can” – could pose a severe threat to your vision. If you are at risk of developing glaucoma, of which acute angle-closure glaucoma affects more Asians than any other race, “inverted positions may raise intraocular pressure (IOP) and lead to the progression of glaucomatous damage,” says Dr. Khor. The Glaucoma Associates of New York, a private practice in New York City, also recommends avoiding anaerobic exercise where your body’s demand for oxygen exceeds supply. These exercises usually consist of short exertion, high-intensity movement such as weightlifting and sprinting.
Outsmart it: Do aerobic exercises
“Aerobic exercise is known to lower intraocular pressure (IOP), which protects retinal ganglion cells,” says Dr. Harry A. Quigley, a professor and director of glaucoma services at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Short-term studies also link aerobic exercise to improved blood flow to the retina and optic nerve. The Glaucoma Research Foundation in San Francisco says IOP can be lowered by exercises that raise your pulse by just 20 to 25%. That’s achievable with 20 minutes of brisk walking, at least four times a week. Yoga- though not inverted poses-can also be beneficial in lowering IO) for a time. Talk to your eye doctor before starting a new exercise program.