Limit screen time
YUTTANA HONGTANSAWAT/ShutterstockSmartphones, laptops, and other devices are a big part of our lives today, and while they help us do everything from working to staying connected to loved ones to shopping, they're not doing anything to protect your eyesight. Staring at the screen for extended periods of time can cause computer vision syndrome, which is marked by eye strain, blurred vision, headaches, and dry eyes. "Take frequent breaks during the day by way of the 20-20-20 rule," says Morgan Statt, a Health & Safety Advocate at consumersafety.org in Syracuse, New York. "Every 20 minutes, look away at something else for 20 seconds that's at least 20 feet away," to give your eyes a break from using your near vision.
Face the A/C away from your eyes
Niran Phonruang/Shutterstock"Blasting your A/C directly on your face may feel good on a hot summer day, but it can wreak havoc on your eyes," Statt says. The dry air zaps away natural moisture on the surface of your eyes. To protect eyesight, she says, point the air vents away from your face. Or turn off the vents altogether—here's how to stay cool without air conditioning.
Kaponia Aliaksei/Shutterstock"Choose sunglasses that protect against 100 percent of the sun's ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays, which can cause all sorts of eye damage and problems," says Vincent Hau, MD, ophthalmologist at Kaiser Permanente in Riverside, California. Your shades don't have to cost a fortune either. "More expensive doesn't necessarily mean better protection," he says. "You can get drugstore sunglasses with just as good of protection or better than designer ones." These are the best sunglasses for your face shape.
Wear them even on cloudy days
pixy_nook/ShutterstockOne of the common myths about sunglasses is that you don't need them if it isn't sunny. "Even on a cloudy day, UV lights still shine through and will hit and damage your eyes," Dr. Hau says. Think of your sunglasses the same way that you think about your sunscreen, and never leave home unprotected.
Get regular eye exams even if you don't wear glasses
Solis Images/ShutterstockWondering how to improve eyesight? "Visit your eye doctor once a year for a comprehensive dilated eye exam," says Matthew Alpert, OD, an optometrist with practices in Los Angeles. When your eyes are dilated, the doctor can see the back of the eyes and examine them for any signs of damage or disease. "Comprehensive eye exams aren't just about the eyes. They can also help detect chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes." Schedule your exam today. These are the shocking diseases your eye doctor often finds first.
Don't sleep in your contact lenses
life literacy/ShutterstockAs tempting as it may be after a rough night, South Florida Ophthalmologist Inna Ozerov, MD, cautions against snoozing in your contacts—even when the brand says it is OK. "The contact lens surface may allow micro-organisms to adhere to your eye, therefore increasing the likelihood of infection," she says. Taking your lenses out before bed also gives your eyes more contact with oxygen, which decreases the risk of infection. These are the other contact lens mistakes you may be making.
Mildenmi/ShutterstockIn addition to all of the other health ills associated with smoking, "tobacco is extremely toxic to the cells of the retina, a thin layer of tissue lining the back of the eye, and significantly increases the risk of developing macular degeneration, which may lead to blindness," Dr. Ozerov says. Macular degeneration occurs when the central part of the retina (the macula) deteriorates. Talk to your doctor about the best way to quit smoking.
Drink up before takeoff
Soloviova Liudmyla/ShutterstockDehydration worsens dry eye symptoms, so if you're traveling by air, drink lots of water before and during a flight to protect eyesight, Alpert says. "It is fine to enjoy alcoholic and caffeinated drinks as long as you drink extra water to make up for fluid loss," he adds. Also, the overhead air conditioning tends to blow dry air directly into your eyes, so close the vents before takeoff. Staying hydrated is also a great way to avoid getting sick on an airplane.
Keep your distance
causelove/Shutterstock"Find a comfortable working distance from your screen," Alpert urges. "This is especially important for children, since the intensity of light increases exponentially the closer our eyes are to light sources." The blue light emitted by our go-to digital devices can raise our risk of developing macular degeneration and may also cause eye strain. Investing in a blue light filter can also help protect your vision.
Dial down the brightness
Kite rin/Shutterstock"Turn down the brightness level of device screens to reduce blue light exposure, especially during evening hours," Alpert says. This will lower the chances of developing eye strain and other eye issues associated with exposure to blue light. Special sunglasses that filter blue light may help you sleep better at night.