By: Dr. Gina Lynem-Walker, physician consultant at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Gina Lynem-Walker
An estimated 2.4 million
eye injuries occur every year in the United States. Of these, many children are affected, which is why August was designated as “Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month
”. The initiative aims to serve as an important reminder of the risk factors, methods of prevention and warning signs associated with common eye injuries.
- Sun: Though the sun is most often associated with skin health, it also poses a potential threat to eye health. Fortunately, protecting the eyes can be as simple as wearing the right type of sunglasses. Only about half of the people who wear sunglasses claim to check the UV rating before buying them, which makes a significant difference to the level of protection. When buying sunglasses, be sure to check the label for 100 percent UV protection. Damage to eyes can occur even on cloudy days, so it’s important to keep shades handy on a regular basis
- Screen Time: Whether it’s a phone, computer or tablet, adults and children tend to stare at screens for hours at a time each day. Research shows that between 50 to 90 percent of people using these devices display signs of eye problems, especially those associated with computer vision syndrome (CVS). These symptoms can include blurred vision, double vision, dry eye, headaches or neck and back pain. People suffering from these symptoms should manage screen time, try to reduce glare and give the eyes a break at least every 20 minutes.
- Household Items: Believe it or not, nearly half of all eye injuries occur at home. Some household items that pose potential threats to eye health include cleaning products, outdoor chemicals, hot grease/oil and makeup. For children, certain toys can prove to be dangerous as well. ASTM International provides families a variety of eye-safety standards that can be reviewed before purchasing a toy or craft.
- Dry Eyes: There are many causes of dry eyes for adults and children. While certain risk factors are uncontrollable (age, gender, contacts, medication) there are ways to manage the threat. Those suffering from dry eyes can use over-the-counter artificial tear solutions or visit a doctor if symptoms continue. In certain cases, health care providers will prescribe eye drops to increase tear production. Blinking regularly, wearing sunglasses outdoors and staying hydrated helps as well.
- Natural Fixes: A great way to support eye health is to consume foods that contribute to healthy vision. Increasing the amount of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Zinc and Omega-3 fatty acids while limiting sugar and saturated fat intake is recommended. Some foods that can improve eye health include spinach, strawberries, seeds, nuts, oysters, salmon, carrots and sweet potatoes.