Our eyes have been referred to as the windows to the soul. They are one of the most important organs in one of the most important neurological systems in our bodies. The visual system is a major player in the sensation and perception of the surrounding environment. Sight is one of the most critical senses in survival and adaptation. Thankfully, we live in a day and age in which those who are blind have many tools to help them to live and survive in a world where sight is so crucial. Vision is solely reliant upon light waves in our environment, and the cones and rods within the eyeball allow us to sense the various light waves that we experience throughout the day and night.
These rods and cones also allow for differentiation of color as well as depth perception. It is estimated that the human eye can distinguish between around 10 million different colors, which is quite an amazing feat for such a small organ.
There are even studies that have implied that the eye may be able to sense a single photon, which is a very small quantum particle, generally needing to be viewed with advanced microscopic equipment. Photosensitive ganglion cells help to aid in the adjustment of pupil size, which aids in the sensation and perception of various forms of light waves we experience in different lighting conditions.
The National Eye Institute has many tips that we can all enact in our daily lives to help aid in optimal eye health. Since this is one of our most important senses, (although all are very important to survival) we want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to help keep eye health in top shape so that our visual system remains working properly as long as possible, hopefully into old age. The following are some simple steps that everyone should enact to maintain optimal eye health:
- Get comprehensive dilated eye examinations – Even if you believe that your vision is healthy and in top shape, you can only be 100% sure through an eye exam at an optometrist office. Many people do not even realize that they are experiencing very common vision problems that could be helped with glasses or contacts lenses. Also, many eye diseases like glaucoma and macular degeneration are undetectable outside of an eye examination. These dilated examinations are much better able to detect these disorders in their early stages.
- Understand your family’s eye health history – Genetics play a huge role in the health of the visual system. Knowing and understanding your parents’ and grandparents’ eye health history is one way to know the risk you may have for various disorders. If you have any family history of any diseases or conditions, you should be having regular dilated eye examinations.
- Consume a healthy diet – As with most biological components of the body, your diet can have a huge effect on eye and visual health. You want to eat the proper vitamins and nutrients to keep, not only, your eyes healthy but your brain as well. Eat a diet that is high in fruits and vegetables, especially green leafy veggies. These include foods like kale, spinach, and collard greens. Fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids also support optimal eye health
- Maintain a healthy weight and body fat mass – Obesity and even being moderately overweight can eventually lead to diabetic conditions such as glaucoma and/or diabetic eye disease.
- Protective eye wear – This is one of the most important and most overlooked things many of us can do to protect our eyes. For those in dangerous occupations, safety goggles and other PPE (personal protective equipment) are an absolute must. We should also be wearing sunglasses to protect our eyes from harmful UV rays from the sun.
- Avoid cigarette smoking – Smoking is not only bad for your eyes, but also overall health. However, studies have linked smoking to various disorders such as age-related macular degeneration, cataract, and optic nerve damage. All of these conditions can eventually lead to blindness
- Allow your eyes to rest – If you spend a significant amount of time looking at a computer, television, or text it is a good idea to give your eyes a break. One simple rule you can follow is the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes look about 20 feet away from you for about 20 seconds. It’s that simple.
- Clean hands properly – Many of us unconsciously touch our eyes often throughout the day. This can lead to the transfer of bacteria and other pathogens that may be harmful to the eyes. Also, if you are a contact lens wearer, be sure to clean your lenses regularly.