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Building Habits for Healthy Eyes in 2023

Habits for Healthy Vision in 2023

What’s good for your eyes is also good for the rest of your body, says University of Colorado ophthalmologist Richard Davidson, MD.

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Written by Toni Lapp on January 4, 2023

We all know that your eyes are a window to your soul, but they also provide insight into your overall health. Getting enough rest, staying active, and consuming a well-balanced diet are just as important to maintaining healthy eyes as the rest of your body. And if you have eye diseases, lifestyle factors take on even more importance.

We spoke with Richard Davidson, MD, professor of ophthalmology in the University of Colorado School of Medicine and vice chair of clinical affairs and quality at UCHealth Eye Centers, for his insights.

Q&A Header

Does good or bad nutrition affect eyesight? Will eating carrots really help?

Absolutely. Your eyes need a variety of nutrients to maintain a healthy ocular surface and good vision. Vitamin A is vital for your vision, but it’s pretty rare in our country for poor nutrition to cause eye problems, unless a person has an eating disorder or health issues such as cancer, which can cause a malabsorption of nutrients. As far as carrots go, they, along with a well-balanced diet with lots of green leafy vegetables and colored vegetables will provide lutein and other antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial to eye health.

Are there any supplements that support healthy vision?

Studies are split on supplements. Some people take fish oil, omega 3, and vitamin E, but the evidence to support this has been mixed. I have patients taking supplements who believe they help, and I wouldn’t discourage anyone from taking them – just don’t overdo it.

Dry eye is a particularly common condition in Colorado. Should we be using eye drops to prevent this?

We’re probably all a little dehydrated because of the level of dryness and the altitude here. First of all, stay hydrated as much as possible. We probably can't drink enough water in Colorado.

Using eye drops doesn’t prevent dry eye but helps maintain a healthy ocular surface. I liken it to an ice-skating rink. The skates scratch the surface and then a Zamboni comes out and smooths it; that’s how artificial tears work, by smoothing the ocular surface. Start with over-the-counter artificial tears on a regular basis, but avoid eye drops that claim to relieve redness.

How do we know it’s time for an eye exam?

Obviously, if you notice your vision changes, it’s time to see an eye care provider. However, even if you feel your vision is stable, we recommend an annual eye exam. Conditions like glaucoma and macular degeneration are painless, so it’s unlikely you’ll notice in your daily life until detected by an eye care provider. Glaucoma is a treatable condition, so it’s important to catch early to prevent vision loss. Eye care providers may also detect systemic diseases like diabetes if they can see changes in blood vessels when they look in the retina.

What else we can do to support healthy eyes?

Don’t smoke. Smoking is the one thing we can control to support healthy eyes. It’s bad for the ocular surface, and it harms your blood vessels. If you have conditions like macular degeneration, smoking makes it worse.

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Richard Davidson, MD