Gen Y are so cavalier about their health. I should know; I’m turning 26 in a couple of months, and the default position among my peers seems to be that we can do what we like and still live forever.
Working for the past few years at The Eye Practice, however, has given me some insights into what can go wrong with the eyes as we get older, and how easy it is to prevent future eye problems by taking a few sensible but simple steps in our 20’s.
1. Have an eye test
The first one is a bit of a no brainer. It sounds obvious, but if you’re in your 20’s and you don’t need glasses or contact lenses it can be easy to forget to have regular eye tests. Your eyes are susceptible to a variety of diseases that often present no obvious symptoms until it’s too late and there is permanent damage. It is important to have regular check-ups to detect these conditions and also collect images and data that will be used as a baseline for comparison in future eye exams. Aim for a comprehensive eye test at least every two years, and sooner if you develop new symptoms of blur or eye strain.
2. Arm yourself against the onslaught of the digital age
Your early 20’s is the time you are typically transitioned from the university grounds to a cramped, artificially-lit office space. Here you will spend 8-10 hours a day on the computer for the next 45 years of your life. (Reality check). In this day and age, using digital devices is almost unavoidable and (sorry to be the bearer of bad news) hours of computer use can have detrimental effects on your eyes. Computer screens emit blue light that has been shown to be toxic to cells on the back of the eye. You can prevent blue light toxicity by investing in a pair of glasses with a blue light filter. This filter is a clear film on the lens that reflects almost 100% of blue light emitted by your computer screen. In my experience of wearing computer glasses over the last few years, my eyes feel significantly less strained at the end of the day as opposed to not wearing them at all. Do you find it harder to fall asleep after being on your computer late at night? Wearing computer specs will prevent this from occurring so you can get a good night’s sleep after watching hours of Netflix. At this stage in your life, you have probably just been kicked off your parent’s health fund. You can contact your private health fund to determine how much they will contribute to a pair of computer glasses. (They might even cover the whole lot).
3. Eye strain and dry eyes: Prevention is SO much easier than cure
Blue light toxicity is not the only problem with prolonged screen usage. Hours upon hours of computer can also cause digital eye strain and dry eye. Neglecting the initial symptoms can cause these conditions to become so severe they are virtually untreatable and will have huge implications on your quality of life and ability to work. (You can read more about this here). Your 20’s is the time to get into good computer use habits. Every half hour, make an effort to stand up from your computer, look into the distance and do 20 slow, conscious blinks. Even doing this simple exercise every hour will dramatically reduce symptoms of eye strain and dryness. Avoid relying on eye drops to get you through the day. Most eye drops contain harmful preservatives and abusing them over time can lead to an array of other eye issues.
4. Retinols? Sure – but not near your eyes
On the bad side of 25, those of us who aren’t genetically blessed with great skin will find ourselves slathering our faces with an array of creams and eye ointments. Many of these creams contain retinol and vitamin A which close up your pores and give your face that flawless finish. Unfortunately, they can also close up your meibomian glands which are responsible for secreting oil and keeping your eyes moist. This can also lead to excruciating dry eye issues. So, to prevent this, apply your creams and ointments on the brow bone and on the bone beneath the eye and avoid applying to the soft tissue that surrounds your eye.
5. Steer clear of decongestants
Late nights and binge-drinking are unavoidable lifestyle elements of our 20’s. Blood-shot, tired eyes are a result of this and you may feel tempted to reach for the decongestant eye drops (Murine, Clear Eyes etc). Here is another handy hint….don’t do it! These eye drops constrict the blood vessels and restrict oxygen to the eye which can be addictive and cause rebound effects (where the eyes become redder than ever as soon as you stop using them). An alternative to these drops is using a gel eye mask. Pop it in the freezer over night and apply the morning of for 5 minutes before you release yourself back into society.
Getting old is a terrifying thought. It is inevitable that we are going to have to face a multitude of health issues over time. Your eyes are your most precious sense! Implementing these simple habits on a daily basis will ensure your eyes are performing at their optimum well into your 30’s and 40’s.