Experts only: Tips on eye care

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Paige Mountain and Andre Namink

Although often overshadowed by other areas of physical health, eye health is extremely important when it comes to overall well-being. Being aware of the factors that affect eye health is an important step when it comes to caring for your eyes.

Blue Light

Blue light is one factor that can be of concern when it comes to eye health. It has become a hot topic in recent years due to heavy use of electronics that emit blue light.

Harvard Health defines blue light as, “visible light with a wave length between 400 and 450 nanometers (nm).” Harvard Health also states that “Blue light is of concern because it has more energy per photon of light than other colors in the visible spectrum, i.e. green or red light. Blue light, at high enough doses, is therefore more likely to cause damage when absorbed by various cells in our body.”

Blue light can have mild effects on the body, such as messing up your circadian rhythm, but can also put you at risk for more severe effects, such as macular degeneration.

Dr. Michael Kruger, an optometrist and owner of Ames Eyecare, discussed how he goes about blue light with his patients who are at risk for macular degeneration.

“If you have risk factors for macular degeneration, that is definitely a major concern,” Kruger said. “So limiting that blue light is just eliminating a certain risk factor. I don’t tell all my patients you have to have this, but some people who have risk of retinal disease, we will definitely have that conversation.”

Blue light glasses have recently become a popular way to protect eyes from blue light exposure when using electronic devices, especially with students who spend a lot of time doing work on computers.

Jackie Trujillo Garcia, a sophomore in finance and international business, started using blue light glasses around two years ago after they were recommended to her by her optometrist. She discussed some of the problems she was having before she started using blue light glasses and how these issues have improved since wearing them.

“When I had my regular glasses beforehand, I noticed that I would get almost like a headache,” Trujillo Garcia said. “My eyes felt in a way kind of sore, so I knew that wasn’t something that was very comfortable for me. But once I started using the blue light glasses, I have not had a problem where I feel like my eyes are sore or I have mild headaches or anything like that.”

Riley Groth, a junior in public relations, also started using blue light glasses to help with eye strain. She discussed the difference she can feel when she is not wearing the blue light glasses.

“I use them when I do homework in my apartment, but I always forget them when I go to class,” Groth said. “I noticed that if I’m in class and on my laptop a lot and I don’t have my blue light glasses on, the strain comes back, but then when I am wearing them I don’t have that strain anymore, so I really notice a difference.”

Blue light typically has a negative connotation, but it is not always a bad thing. Kruger discussed how blue light can actually be positive.

“The number one emitter of blue light is the sun, so not all blue light is bad,” Kruger said. “It is actually good in a lot of ways.”

Ultraviolet light

The most naturally occurring light, the sun, could be the most harmful light to the eyes.

UV rays can have a variety of long-term effects on eye health. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), UV rays increase the likelihood of cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye), pterygium (tissue growth on the eye), skin cancer around the eyes and macular degeneration (loss of central vision).

Dr. Thomas Kemmerer, an optometrist at Huseman Eye Care, talked about how UV rays can speed up the natural aging process of the eyes.

“UV light over time can accelerate cataract formation in the eyes. It can be a factor in certain eye diseases later in life,” Kemmerer said.

Kruger recommends wearing eye protection outside because we are constantly exposed to harmful UV radiation.

Kruger explained that cataracts are the number one surgery and cause of blindness worldwide; he said it is important to protect the skin on your eyelids and wear sunglasses to slow down the rate of getting cataracts.

“Wearing sunglasses is definitely something that everyone should be doing. It’s not just to look fashionable and cool. There’s a health benefit to that,” Kruger said. “Wearing sunglasses can potentially prevent you from needing eye surgery as you get older.”

Contact lenses

While contacts mean to help your vision, they can do quite the opposite if cared for improperly.

Kemmerer stated that contact lenses are one of the biggest factors that affect eye health for college students. Contacts can have short- and long-term effects on the eye.

“I’d say one of the big things affecting eye health will be contact lenses. That means a lot of infection, scarring and stuff like that in the eyes for people that over-wear their contacts and don’t clean them properly,” Kemmerer said.

Kruger said that dry eyes are probably the most common reason people go to the eye doctor.

“Dry eyes don’t seem like a big deal, but you know, it can range from your eyes being red, burning, stinging, tearing; it can actually cause your vision to fluctuate,” Kruger said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you do not sleep in contact lenses, mix new and old contact solution together and always replace lenses according to your eye doctor.

“Dry eyes are generally a fixable situation,” Kemmerer said. “There are some cases that are pretty extreme that you have to go to great lengths to fix, but when it’s dry from screen time use or over-wearing contact, the average dry eye is quite reversible.”

Drug use

Drug use, specifically smoking, can also have long-term effects on eye health.

Kemmerer discussed how smoking can have a negative impact on the eyes and puts you at risk for certain vision problems.

“Smoking is another thing that can harm the eyes of macular degeneration and can speed up cataract formation,” Kemmerer said.

Kemmerer said that alcohol is not going to have a lasting impact on the eyes like smoking can. However, it can affect them short term. Excessive drinking can lead to dehydration which causes your eyes to dry out and can also impact your eye muscles, leading to double vision.


Eye health extends to other chronic health conditions.

“A big problem we have right now is diabetes in our country and diabetes affects our eyes as well,” Kruger said. “Some of the bigger concerns with diabetics is peripheral neuropathy, you know, fingers and toes, but also blindness.”

Mayo Clinic defines diabetic retinopathy as “A diabetes complication that affects the eyes. It’s caused by damage to the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye (retina).”

Kruger and Kemmerer recommend getting your eyes checked at least once a year. Once you are diabetic, you should consider visiting more, especially during drastic blood sugar fluctuations.

Why you should care

Taking care of your eyes should be a priority for comfort and to be able to healthily view the world.

Kemmerer explains the importance of eye exams.

“Even if you have 20/20 vision, it’s still good to get your eyes checked,” Kemmerer said. “The super rare occasions where you might find signs of a tumor in the back of the eye may save someone’s life.”

If you want to maintain or improve your eye health, Kruger said it is essential to visit your eye doctor at least once a year and have those conversations about any concerns.

“Being dilated or having your retina scan are important steps to make sure the doctor has a chance to catch anything early like any other health issue,” Kruger said. “If you catch things early, it’s much easier to manage and treat.”