Taking Care of Your Eyes

What to know

To keep your eyes healthy, get a comprehensive dilated eye exam: an eye care professional will use drops to widen the pupils to check for common vision problems and eye diseases.

A doctor performing an eye examination

Common eye disorders and diseases

Some eye conditions can cause vision loss and even blindness. These include

  • Cataracts, a clouding of the eye.
  • Diabetic retinopathy, which damages the blood vessels in the back of the eye.
  • Glaucoma, damage to the optic nerve, often with increased eye pressure.
  • Age-related macular degeneration, which gradually affects central vision.

Other eye conditions, such as refractive errors, which happen when the shape of your eye doesn't bend light correctly, are common problems easily corrected with glasses, contact lenses, or laser surgery. An estimated 11 million Americans aged 12 years and older could see better if they used corrective lenses, or eye surgery, if appropriate.

You can have a dilated eye exam regularly to check for the common eye problems. Get the exam every 1 to 2 years if you:

  • Are over age 60.
  • Are African American and over age 40.
  • Have a family history of glaucoma.

If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, ask your doctor how often you need an eye exam. Most people with diabetes or high blood pressure need a dilated eye exam every year.

Although older adults tend to have more vision problems, preschoolers may not see as well as they can. The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends that children have at least one eye exam between age 3 and 5 years.

Nine ways to protect your vision

  1. Get regular comprehensive dilated eye exams.
  2. Know your family's eye health history. It's important to know if anyone has been diagnosed with an eye disease or condition, since some are hereditary.
  3. Eat right to protect your sight. In particular, eat plenty of dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, or collard greens, and fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, albacore tuna, trout, and halibut.
  4. Maintain a healthy weight.
  5. Wear protective eyewear when playing sports or doing activities around the home, such as painting, yard work, and home repairs.
  6. Quit smoking or never start.
  7. Wear sunglasses that block at least 99% of ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation.
  8. Wash your hands before taking out your contacts and clean your contact lenses properly to avoid infection.
  9. Practice workplace eye safety.
A man wearing eyeglasses to protect his eyes while mowing the lawn.
Use protective eyewear to avoid injury.

Eyes and overall health

Taking care of your eyes also may benefit your overall health. Some health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure can affect your eyes at the initial stage. The eye exam can tell you and your doctor if there are any underlying health conditions that need attention.

In addition to your comprehensive dilated eye exam, visit an eye care professional if you have

  • Decreased vision.
  • Eye pain.
  • Drainage or redness of the eye.
  • Double vision.
  • Floaters (tiny specks that appear to float before your eyes).
  • Circles (halos) around light sources.
  • Flashes of light.