From the moment you wake up until you go to sleep, your eyes are working to bring you the world, delivering 80 percent of the information you take in every day. In return, the least you can do is protect and monitor them.
Yet, according to the National Eye Institute (NEI), more than 24 million American adults have never had an eye exam.
Maybe that's because when your eyes feel healthy, it's easy to assume they are healthy. But did you know your eyes are windows to your overall health? And the best way to get a complete picture is with regular dilated eye exams.
Several common eye diseases such as glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, and age-related macular degeneration often have no warning signs. A dilated eye exam is the only way to detect these diseases in their early stages. It may also detect signs of high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that everyone get a baseline eye exam at 40. Although, some people shouldn't wait. If you have an eye disease or if you have a risk factor for developing one, such as diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of eye disease, you should see an ophthalmologist even if you are younger than 40.
More Healthy Vision Tips
Know your family's eye health history.
Talking to your family members about their eye health can help you find out if you're at higher risk for eye disease. If you learn that eye diseases run in your family, talk with your eye doctor.
Wear sunglasses—even on cloudy days!
Sunglasses can protect your eyes from the sun's most damaging UV (ultraviolet) rays, commonly known as UVA (ultraviolet A) and UVB (ultraviolet B). When shopping for shades, look for a pair that blocks out at least 99% of both UVA and UVB.
UVA rays can pass through the cornea and reach the lens and retina inside the eye and have been linked to the development of certain kinds of cataracts.
UVB, rays produce sunburn, and in high doses increase the risk of skin cancer and may cause growths on the eye surface as well as "snow blindness," also known as photokeratitis.
Quit smoking or never start.
Smoking is as bad for your eyes as it is for the rest of your body. Research has linked smoking to an increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and optic nerve damage, all of which can lead to blindness.
Give your eyes a rest.
If you spend a lot of time at the computer, you may sometimes forget to blink — and that can tire out your eyes. To reduce eyestrain, try the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look away from your work and focus about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds.
Eat eye-healthy foods.
A diet rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables — especially dark leafy greens, like spinach or kale — is important for keeping your eyes healthy. Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids — like salmon, tuna, and halibut — can also help protect your vision.