Most of us cannot conceive of a life without appreciating the beauty in every blade of grass or every child’s smile. However, around 12 million Americans 40 years and over have vision impairment, including one million who are blind. This July, we recognize Healthy Vision Month. It is a time to understand better the risks associated with vision loss, the ways that we can support the vision impaired, and recommit to making healthy lifestyle choices to protect our eye health. This summer, when the sun is at its highest and strongest peak of the year, spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself with the risk factors that can put your healthy vision at risk. Then, pledge to yourself to prioritize your long-term eye health this month and always.
You prioritize seeing your physician annually for a wellness exam and routine screening (or you should; if you don’t already have a primary care physician, find one in Oregon or Washington). However, you should also make an annual visit to your eye doctor another healthcare priority. Your doctor can screen for eye disease and other risk factors that could impair your vision long-term during your eye exam.
Not only is Healthy Vision Month a time to prioritize your eye health, but it is also a time to strengthen your advocacy for the eye health of those you love and care for. Encourage your parents, friends, and other family members to obtain an annual eye exam. If you are a parent, talk to your pediatrician about a recommended cadence for eye exams for your child. Typically, however, children should have their first eye exam at six months, then at age three, and then again before they begin first grade.
The blue lights that your smartphone, laptop, and tablet emit can cause eye strain, especially for individuals (including teenagers) who work at a computer or spend significant time each day on their smartphones. To minimize your exposure to blue light and your risk of eye strain, follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look away from your computer at a point about 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Pair this with a stand, water, or meditation break for double the wellness.
Wearing sunglasses every season when you are outdoors during the day is a critical step to protecting your eyes. Ensure your sunglasses are designed to protect you from both UV-A and UV-B rays. Sunglasses do not need to be expensive, prescription, or designer to include UV protection, but you want to ensure you choose a pair with this feature for optimal impact.
Think of Healthy Vision Month as a time to recommit to eye health best practices, but don’t let up the rest of the year. The long-term effects of sun exposure, eye strain, and neglecting regular eye screenings can be detrimental to your long-term eye health. With a few proactive but consistent lifestyle changes, you’ll be enjoying the beauty of nature’s details and your loved ones’ smiles all the days of your long, healthy life.