Getting LASIK (“Laser-Assisted In-situ Keratomileusis”) eye surgery was probably one of the most transformative experiences of my life. I remember my dad asking, shortly after my vision went from nil to an “I can see all the pores on your skin” kind of perfect, if his face looked rather unfamiliar to me following the operation. If my own face looked unfamiliar, as if I were looking at a poorly-made wax figure of myself whenever I peered into the bathroom mirror. I found myself shaking my head furiously in response, like, I have no idea what you’re talking about, Dad.
This was a complete lie, of course. But the last thing I wanted was for my dad to find out that I’d spent much of my recovery time freaking out about how different the world around me (including his face and mine) looked with 20/20 vision. I mean, sure, it was cool to confirm that tree branches really did have individual leaves on them instead of vague green blobs. But discovering that my skin texture was actually five times worse than what my pre-surgery eyes had advertised? Not so cool. To top off that offense, I’d been drawing my eyebrows in all wrong! The saying goes that “the devil is in the details,” and I suddenly found myself being rudely alerted as to the presence of those details.
Mind you, my existential crisis was short-lived, mostly because I realized it was an opportunity-in-disguise for me to get better about my beauty routine. After all, I had all the visual information now, brought to me in crystal-clear definition. Within the time span of a week, I stopped being summertime-lazy about my skincare regimen, made water my best friend, and began revamping my entire eyebrow region (that last one to my parents’ abject horror). What I’m trying to tell you, dear health and beauty readers, is that I realized how crucial good eyesight was to all the self-care ideas that I had planned out for myself. The motivating part here should be the fact that my vision wasn’t actually that bad before I went under the laser. Sure, fuzzy blobs did pop up around me every now and then, but my anisometropia, which made one of my eyes nearsighted and the other farsighted, ensured that I could generally see what was going on. Evidently, every little fault to my seeing power had mattered. And I never wanted to viscerally feel that fact again.
I know you might not feel as though you need to worry about these things right now. Maybe you have glasses or contacts that you wear all the time, or maybe your vision is already perfect. And of course, you could always just get corrective eye surgery in the future, like I did. But the philosophy I live by goes something like “prevent rather than cure,” and “hold onto good things before, or lest, they leave you.” That’s why I’ve decided that my eye care journey, despite the LASIK, is far from being over. I not only want to seize all the benefits of a 20/20 vision today. I also want it up-and-running for enjoying tomorrow as well. So here are a couple of things we can all do to keep our eyes happy and healthy. You know, besides the obvious of going to the eye doctor.
1. Lead a healthy lifestyle. It’ll be the foundation of your well-being.
- Eat a balanced diet full of antioxidants (I’m talking Vitamins A, C, and E), omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, zinc, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Leafy green vegetables, non-meat proteins, oily fish, and citrus fruits are some good places to start. Doing this will help prevent age-related vision problems like cataracts and macular degeneration, and ensure the general health of your macula, which is the part of your eye in charge of central vision.
- Exercise, exercise exercise! This will help with blood circulation and improve the flow of oxygen to, and waste products from, the eyes.
- Maintain a healthy sleep schedule to prevent your eyes from becoming tired, red, and strained.
2. Naturally, don’t lead an unhealthy lifestyle. Bad lifestyle habits will take a real toll on your general well-being, as well as on the health of your eyes. If any of these habits are difficult for you to break, there are many professional resources around campus that can help.
- Drink in moderation! Too much alcohol (or really just alcohol) offsets free-radical reactions that will hinder the functioning of the macula.
- Smoking is not recommended. It’ll make the eyes vulnerable to high oxidative stress, which increases your likelihood of having vision problems like cataracts, optic nerve damage, and age-related macular degeneration in the future.
- A diet that is high in fats, especially saturated fats, can decrease blood flow to the eyes. While this also applies to circulation throughout the rest of your body, the blood vessels that provide nutrients to the eyes are particularly small and sensitive to obstruction.
3. Protect your eyes at all times (even from yourself).
- Sunglasses aren’t just fashion accessories. They protect your eyes from harmful UV rays that can cause a range of different optical issues in the future, including retinal damage and cancerous growths. It’s best to get a pair with 100% UVA and UVB protection, and to wear them with brimmed hats to minimize your eyes’ exposure to the damaging light. And remember: what goes for sunscreen also goes for sunglasses! You want them on rain or shine, summer or winter, because UV rays are here to stay.
- If you engage in violent sports like ice hockey and lacrosse, you should always have protective gear for your eyes. Helmets, face masks, and sports goggles are some examples.
- Before working with toxic or airborne materials, or when doing home projects like repairs, cleaning, and gardening, always put on protective glasses or safety goggles.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before touching your eyes and/or before inserting/removing your contact lenses (if you wear them) to protect yourself from eye infections.
4. Love your eyes as much as you love your books and devices!
Digital devices expose your eyes to a lot of high-energy blue light, and staring into them all day (as we college students tend to need to do) can cause dry eyes, blurry vision, and eyestrain. While reading words off of paper won’t expose your eyes to these wavelengths, it’s important to remember that it can be hard on your eyes in different ways!
- Lutein and zeaxanthin are actually nutrients in the macula that help keep out some of the blue light. Since our bodies can’t create them, we need to take them in through food and/or supplements.
- Keep the top of your computer screen a little bit below eye level so that your eyes are aligned with it. This will cause you to look somewhat downwards into the screen.
- Adhere to the 20-20-20 rule. Pause from your work every 20 minutes to fix your eyes on an object that is 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- Use eye drops and frequent blinking to combat dry eyes (but also to prevent them).
- Get computer (blue-light) glasses, which are specifically made to block blue light from digital device screens.
- Try to angle your screen so that it doesn’t reflect glare from lights and windows. If this is hard to do on a daily basis, consider using an anti-glare screen.