Keeping Eyes Healthy
Keeping Eyes Healthy
Robert K. Maloney (Ophthalmologist) gives expert video advice on: How can sunlight damage my eyes?; What is the best way to protect my eyes from UV rays?; Can a black eye be dangerous? and more...
How can sunlight damage my eyes?
Ultraviolet light is not good for your eyes, just like it's not good for your skin. Just like on skin, UV light in your eyes can cause cancers of the surface of the eye. Or even if you don't get cancer, prolonged exposure to sunlight over many years can cause growths on the surface of the eye that we call pterygia, and actually grow across and block your vision. Some people think, and there's pretty good evidence, that long exposure to sunlight can cause cataracts. and it may also contribute to macular degeneration, which is the main cause of irreversible blindness in the modern world. So it's clear that it's a good idea to protect your eyes from the ultraviolet light that's in sunlight.
What is "snow blindness"?
Snow blindness is basically a sunburn of your eyes caused by too much exposure to too much ultraviolet all at once. Just like you get sunburn on your skin, you can get sunburn on your eyes. This typically happens when people go skiing without sunglasses, because they get the direct sunlight from the sun and the reflected sunlight from the snow. You can also get snow blindness on water for the same reason. You can also get it if you do arc welding (which puts out a lot of UV light), and forget to put on your safety goggles. Snow blindness is incredibly painful. It's like having a fistful of sand in your eyes. Fortunately, it doesn't cause any long-term damage, as long as you don't get repeatedly exposed to it.
What causes dry eyes?
Dry eyes means that your eye isn't producing enough tears or the tears that it is producing are the wrong kind of tears. They are not what your eye needs to maintain its health. If you have dry eyes, you will find your eyes are dry feeling or irritated or burning and generally uncomfortable. Often people with dry eyes find their dryness is worse when they are in an arid environment, when they go to the dessert, when they are in an air conditioned room, in the winter time when the humidity is very low. They may find their symptoms are better when they are in a humid environment. They take a trip to Hawaii or it is a realy humid day outside. Everything get better. These are thekind of signs of dry eyes that will help you figure out whether you have dry eyes or not. Really the diagnosis has to be made by an eye doctor.
What over-the-counter eye solutions should I use to treat dry eyes?
There is a number of over-the-counter products that are useful for dry eyes and they generally divide into preserved and non-preserved. The preserved come in bottles with a cap on it. You can take it off and put it in your eyes. They have preservatives in them and that means they are meant to be used over and over. Preservatives themselves can irritate the eyes. So if you are using them more than three or four times a day you should stay away from the preserved artificial tears because more than three or four times a day the preservative starts to build up. So, in that case, you want to use the non preserved kind. These are little break open containers that contain just a single dose or a couple of doses of artificial lubricants. These are very nice because they are preservative free. They won't irritate the eyes at all, it is a pure soothing effect. The disadvantages are considerably more expensive because you have to, at least you are supposed to, break it open, use it and throw it away. Take the next one, break it open and throw it away. Now, what the companies don't tell you is you can reuse those and you can pretty much use it all day long but you should certainly throw it away and open a new one at least once every day because without a preservative they will tend to accumulate bacteria over time. It's easy to tell the difference between the preserved and the non-preserved artificial tears because the preserved ones come in a bottle with a screw on cap and the non-preserved ones come in little break open containers.
What over-the-counter medication will worsen my dry eyes?
There are some medicines not to use. Try and avoid using eye whitening drops. These the drops that take the red out. And there are a variety of different brands. They aren't good for your eyes in the long term because you actually gets addicted to them. So, then, if you stopped using it your eyes gets redder and more irritated. You shouldn't use eye whitener drop more than a couple of times a week. They're great to take the red out for a party or special event, but don't use them every day. Also, if your're taking certain oral medications, they can dry your eyes out. Antihistamines can dry your eyes out. A certain cold medicine can dry your eyes out, like sudapherims. Certain antidepressants can dry your eyes out and certain anti-hypertension drugs can as well. So, if you're having problems with dry eyes made sure you call these drugs that you're taking orally to the attention of your eye doctor so he can evaluate or she can evaluate whether or not they're attributing to your dry eye.
How do allergies affect my eyes?
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What should I do if I get something in my eye?
If you get something in your eye, the first thing to do is try to figure out what it is. If you're at the beach and somebody threw sand at you, then you know what it is. Try and avoid digging in your eye to fish whatever it is out because you can scratch your eye by digging around in there. You're much better off just blinking and trying to blink it away. Or, if that doesn't work, you can actually irrigate your eye. You can do that by going into a shower, and kind of opening your eyes under a shower and pulling up on your eyelets so the water can wash underneath there. You can do it at a sink, you can do it a water fountain. But it's much better to irrigate your eye with water than it is to fish around for it. Now, if you get a chemical in your eye, like an acid, that's potentially a real medical emergency. The first thing you want to do is rush to someplace where you can rinse your eye out and irrigate it vigorously. So that can be a shower, a drinking fountain, it doesn't matter. Open your eye as wide as you can by pulling back on your eyelet and rinse for at least ten minutes to get as much of the chemical out as you can. Then high tail it to the emergency room because these are potentially very serious injuries.
Can a black eye be dangerous?
Black eyes happen because you got hit in the eye or around the eye. If you get hit around the eye, in other words, you get hit on your eyebrow or if you get hit on your cheekbone, you can get a black eye from that, but that won't harm your eye at all. However, if you get hit directly in the eye, with a fist, a tennis ball, something where there's contact between the object and your eyelid, that's potentially serious, because that compressive force can cause retinal tears, which can lead to blindness eventually. So if you had a traumatic impact with the eyeball or eyelid, it's worth getting to your eye doctor and getting a careful eye exam.
Will certain foods improve my eyesight?
There's a lot of old wives tale here. It turns out that our eyes do need vitamin A, and if we're vitamin A deficient you can actually lose your vision. Now, its almost impossible to be vitamin A deficient in America, or with a western diet, because vitamin A is in a lot of foods, including milk and green leafy vegetables. So, about the only way you can get vitamin A deficient nowadays is having severe intestinal disorders that prevent absorption of vitamin A. So, basically you don't have to worry about vitamin A deficiency. Now, the other part of this question is, well maybe I'm not vitamin A deficient, but can I improve my eyes by nutritional supplements? the answer is for most people: no. For example, eating more carrots will not make your vision better. Taking multi-vitamins doesn't help, in general, to prevent eye diseases. Now, there is one exception: it turns out that if you have a moderate degree of macular degeneration, there are certain vitamins which can help retard the progression of that macular degeneration. These vitamins include zinc, copper and some other nutritional supplements as well. Now that is only a very tiny percentage of people. A lot of people have heard about this, and so all sorts of people are taking eye vitamins nowadays. Almost certainly most of that is a total waste.
Will smoking affect my vision?
Smoking is bad for your vision and just about all the rest of you too. It turns out if your a smoker it more than doubles your risk of developing age related macular degeneration. So it's best not to smoke, and if you do smoke it's best you quit.
How effective are eye exercises in improving vision?
A lot of people wonder about eye exercises. It turns out they usually don't help your vision. For example, if you're nearsighted, eye exercise will not make you less nearsighted. So it's a waste of time and money. There are a couple of conditions, though, where eye exercises are helpful. That's something called accommodative insufficiency and divergence insufficiency. Now, those names aren't going to mean much, but they are very specific conditions where the eyes don't move in or out properly when you're reading or looking farther away. For those very specific conditions, eye exercises can help your eyes align better. Now, how do you know if they're going to help you? There's no way to know to tell without seeing an eye doctor and getting a diagnosis of these conditions. But I wouldn't spend my money buying eye exercises out of the back of a magazine. That's just throwing good money away.
Can looking at computer monitors damage my eyes?
Looking at computer monitors is not bad for your eyes, although it is obviously fatiguing when done for long periods of time. It doesn't for example cause near-sightedness or weaken your eyes; you don't have to worry about the health of your eyes. Now, there are some things you can do for the fatigue of staring at computers all the time. One problem is that when you look at a computer, you tend to blink less, so your eyes dry out. So, look away every ten minutes or so and blink a few times just to re-lubricate your eyes. Worry about the positioning and posture you have in front of a monitor. The best posture is to have your chin up rather than looking down, so try to have the monitor at eye level if possible. Watch the position of your fingers when you type. Try and have them and your shoulders in a natural position to keep them more comfortable. Finally, if you find that you are getting eye strain then sometimes computer glasses can be helpful. The other thing that you can do to reduce eye strain is to have back lighting behind your monitor. It turns out that back lighting helps constrict your pupil a little bit; that helps make your focus a little bit easier. So, especially if you're in a dark room, consider just putting a light, some kind of illumination, on the wall behind the monitor to give it some back light; that'll relax your eyes.