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Featured, Wellness

Vision Quest: How to Keep Your Eyes Healthy and Happy 

Age, hereditary, dietary factors, lifestyle, medical conditions and more can all impact eye health. Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler, of the Boxer Wachler Vision Institute in Beverly Hills, has been featured on NBC’s The Doctors and many other outlets, as a media expert on eye health.  

He says the main cause of eyestrain today is focusing too much on the computer and mobile devices. This can also cause dry eyes from not blinking enough—your blink rate is reduced by 30% when you’re looking at a screen. And when we age, our eyes change. “It typically happens when people are in their 40s, so the lens can’t focus as well for up close vision as it used to, and that’s the reason why people start needing reading glasses or are considering some other procedures,” Dr. Boxer Wachler says. In addition, you can lose contrast sensitivity, which is how you differentiate more details than just what is on the eye chart—black letters on a white background. Maturing of the retina, in particular, is responsible for that. 

But it’s never too early to start taking care of your eyes. One thing anyone can do, starting now, is practice the 20-20 rule: Take 20 second breaks every 20 minutes from looking at your computer screen and close your eyes. You can also use artificial tears and consume oral flax oil to lubricate them externally and internally. This can be more impactful than getting a prescription for a special eyestrain coating on your glasses, Dr. Boxer Wachler says.  

Dr. Boxer Wachler also has these tips to help keep your eyes in the best shape possible:  

  • Know your family history and stay healthy: Does macular degeneration or glaucoma run in your family? There are lifestyle changes that can make all the difference for you, despite your genes, such as eating well and quitting smoking. There’s a connection between glaucoma and diabetes, so eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables (especially plenty of dark, leafy greens) and omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon to maintain a healthy weight could be important to eye health. Smoking can definitely hurt your eyes by increasing the risk of cataract progression and macular degeneration, because it damages the blood flow to the small vessels. “When tissues don’t get blood flow, a lot of things go south,” says Dr. Boxer Wachler. 
  • Keep the eye area clean: Take off all your makeup every night to avoid negative reactions, and use gentle hypoallergenic cleansers and nonabrasive products because the skin around the eye is extremely delicate. 
  • Notice unusual symptoms: Usually when people are having an allergic reaction, it’s going to be in both eyes. If it’s in one eye, there could be something going on with the eye, such as inflammation or inflamed oil glands that line the inside of the eyelid, a common cause of dry eye called blepharitis. When in doubt, head to the eye doctor. 
  • Wear sunglasses: “You’re actually damaging your eyes if you don’t wear sunglasses, even if you’re not looking directly at the sun,” Dr. Boxer Wachler says, adding that it’s also important for children to wear sunglasses. “Sunglasses are like sunscreen for your eyes. Signs of sun damage include chronic bloodshot eyes, yellowish eyes or brown spots on the whites of your eyes and pterygium eyes (surfer’s eyes). We do surgery to treat this but better to use preventative measures like wearing wrap-around sunglasses.” 

And finally, be aware that anything on your hands can go directly into your eyes, even by accident. Foreign matter that comes in contact with your eyes can cause nasty infections; always wash your hands with warm, soapy water to kill any bacteria or viruses. An irritation can happen to anyone at any time. Dr. Boxer Wachler once had an issue while cutting hot Thai peppers. The oil from the peppers stayed on his fingers, and the next morning, while riding his bike, his eyes started burning like crazy. “I literally had to take out my contacts and throw them away and ride back to my place, wash my hands really carefully and put in a new pair of contacts.” 

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