Try Your Eye Doctor’s Top Tips
To keep your eyes healthy and your vision sharp, try these daily habits approved by your eye doctor
There’s an old saying: talent borrows, genius steals.
When it comes to your eye health, be like Einstein and make these six daily habits from eye doctors your own. They aren't difficult or time-consuming, but all of them will help keep your eyes healthy for life.
Secret #1: Your Contact Lenses Can’t Be Clean Enough
“Contact lenses are like underwear,” says Margaret Barrett Harrington, O.D., an optometrist at America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses in Daytona Beach, Florida. “You shouldn’t wear the same pair every day without a proper cleaning.”
Likewise, if you wear dailies, never economize by reusing your lenses. If you wear biweeklies or monthlies, clean and store your lenses as directed every single night.
The reason? Infection. Sloppy hygiene can turn contact lenses into a petri dish for bacteria and other pathogens (aka gross stuff) to grow, she explains.
In fact, the eye-health experts at the Cleveland Clinic note that contact-lens wearers have a greater risk for an infection of the cornea called keratitis, which can lead to scarring and, if left untreated, loss of vision. Contacts also make it easier to get pink eye.
Also, never sleep in your contacts. Dozing off with your lenses in deprives your eyes of much-needed oxygen, which opens another pathway for the bad stuff to settle in.
Secret #2: Sunglasses Are Not Optional
“The easiest thing I do to protect my eyesight is wear sunglasses every day,” says Stephanie Hubbard, O.D., of Crystal Clear Eye Associates, located inside an America’s Best in Sarasota.
The same ultraviolet rays that are known to damage skin (UVA) and increase your chances of developing skin cancer (UVB) can also contribute to vision loss, cataracts (clouding of the eye’s lens), growths on your eyelids, and eye cancers, she says.
Look for sunglasses that boast “100% UV protection” on the tag or frame. And be sure to wear them on overcast days, too, since UV rays can punch through the clouds.
Psst: Want to know another healthy habit? Annual eye checkups! Book yours today!
Secret #3: Artificial Tears Are for Everyone
“Using lubricating eye drops daily helps prevent dry, itchy eyes,” says Dr. Harrington. “It’s a good habit for everyone, not just those who’ve been diagnosed with dry-eye syndrome.”
Studies show that we don’t blink as often when we’re focused on a visual task, like reading or playing a video game. The blink rate slows to around four to five times per minute, compared to 8 to 21 times per minute at rest.
That matters because blinking helps keep the surface of our eyes replenished. “Artificial tears help your eyes feel more comfortable,” she says.
Dr. Harrington likes preservative-free artificial tears, but with so many options she suggests asking your eye doctor to recommend an over-the-counter drop that is right for you.
Secret #4: Drink (Often) to Good Vision
“So many issues—headaches, dryness, our eyes’ ability to function well—lie with making sure we’re hydrated,” says optometrist Elizabeth Walsh Czirr, O.D., F.A.A.O., with Nashville Regional Eyecare, located inside an America’s Best.
“I drink close to 64 ounces of water every day,” she continues, “and I rarely have headaches and my eyes aren’t dry, which is a common complaint among patients.”
Aim to sip water with every meal. And instead of buying pricey water at the vending machine or convenience store, get in the habit of filling a reusable bottle before heading to work.
“Your goal can be to come home with an empty bottle,” she says.
Secret #5: Eyestrain Is Predictable—and Fixable
“Eye docs can get eyestrain, too!” says Vijal Shah, O.D., an optometrist at America’s Best in Alpharetta, Georgia. “Over the course of a day in a fast-paced environment, looking into patients’ eyes, making notes on the patient’s chart—all of this up-close work takes a toll. The 20-20-20 rule really helps me avoid eye fatigue.”
The rule is super simple to follow: every 20 minutes, look away from your screen for 20 seconds and gaze at something 20 feet away.
If you spend a lot of time with tech devices or find yourself staring at any one thing for a long stretch of time (like the highway during a road trip or spending hours on a computer), Dr. Shah says to stay alert for signs of eyestrain.
Lots of eye rubbing, a headache or gritty-feeling eyes, and red, irritated eyes are your cues to power down and take a 20-20-20 break.
Secret #6: Active Life = Healthy Eyes
“Anything that compromises your general health will compromise your vision, too,” says David Damari, O.D., president of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry and dean of the Michigan College of Optometry at Ferris State University.
“High blood pressure is a threat to your retina, and smoking endangers the blood circulation in your eyes,” he continues. “If you really want to take care of your vision, take care of yourself. That’s the best place to start.”
For Dr. Damari, that means eating foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids (like salmon, tuna, chia seeds, and walnuts) because they help tame inflammation in the body and regulate the fluid balance and thickness of the retina’s outer membrane.
He also prioritizes sleep, aiming for at least five hours of solid shut-eye so his eyes have a chance to recover from the strain of being on alert all day.
Finally, he looks for opportunities to move more throughout his day. A report from the United Kingdom found that moderately active adults are 25% less likely to develop glaucoma (one of the leading causes of vision loss) compared with their sedentary peers.
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