By Linda Kossoff
When your vision suffers, so do your services. Learn how to maintain your eye health and keep your peepers in top shape with these eight optometrist-prescribed pointers.
Among the professions that rely heavily on acute vision and optical endurance, nail technician is high on the list. And with increasing client demand for creative and painstakingly intricate nail art, that status gets truer every day. But hours of straining to focus on the job could also be responsible for headaches, eye dryness or blurry vision. The truth is, whether you’ve been nearsighted since the second grade or have enjoyed 20/20 vision for 30 years or more, your eyes will exhibit the weakening effects of use and age no matter what sort of work you do. But if you neglect those peepers as a nail pro, you could be on the path to an unwanted early retirement—or worse. Fortunately, taking care of your eyes doesn’t have to be hard. Here, eight expert tips to keep your peepers in prime condition and maintain your eye health.
1. Schedule regular checkups.
Check your eye health. Doctors recommend that at-risk adults receive an annual eye exam, and that all other adults get an exam every one to two years. Risk factors include a history of ocular disease, wearing contact lenses, and working in visually demanding jobs (which most certainly includes nail technicians). “The most important thing is to have comprehensive dilated eye exams, not only to correct your natural vision but to evaluate ocular health,” says Teri Geist, O.D., an optometrist in Omaha, Nebraska, and communications committee chair for the American Optometric Association. Not only do many people fail to recognize their own vision problems, she says, but a lot of eye diseases come with no warning signs. “Glaucoma, for instance, is a silent disease,” notes Geist. “There’s no pain and people lose peripheral vision so slowly that most individuals don’t detect it.” Only a proper exam of the retina, macula and optic nerve can reveal potential problems.
2. Throw some shade.
The National Eye Institute specifically recommends wearing sunglasses that block out 99 percent to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation—and no one is exempt. “Every person of every age should wear UV protection,” says Geist.
3. Maintain moisture.
Age, being female, taking certain medications and smoking are all potential causes of dry eye, but even staring for long periods of time can contribute to the issue. “When people focus in on something, as nail techs do, they tend to not blink as often—and when the blink rate goes down, the eyes get dry, red, fatigued and strained,” says Geist. “And let’s not forget the filing dust in the air! If you wear contact lenses, that makes it even worse.” To quash symptoms, Geist recommends using over-the-counter lubricating drops (not anti-reddening drops, which can exacerbate the problem), preferably preventatively. “Like applying hand lotion every morning, putting in eye drops on a regular basis works much better than waiting until your eyes are already dry,” she says.
4. Butt out.
As with so many other aspects of health, smoking is a disaster for the eyes. One Harvard Medical School study found smokers are three times more likely than non-smokers to develop the most vision-threatening type of cataracts (clouding of the eye lens), and another study, published in JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, shows that regular smokers face more than twice the risk of developing macular degeneration, an incurable condition that’s the leading cause of vision loss in the U.S.
5. Give ’em a break.
The eyes focus more naturally on things that are far away, so focusing on things up close isn’t comfortable for a lot of people and can cause eye strain and fatigue, says Geist. “We talk a lot about the effects of hours of close-up work because of the digital world we live in, but the distance from your eyes to a computer screen is about the same as the distance from your eyes to a client’s hands or feet,” she says. “So practice what we call the 20-20-20 rule: For every 20 minutes that you’re doing close work, take a 20-second break and look at something that’s 20 feet away.”
6. Put on your glasses.
If you have prescription glasses, wear them! Generic, over-the-counter “readers” are not a good substitute, as they don’t allow for differences between right and left eyes or astigmatism. And if you wear contact lenses, be aware that misuse is one of the leading causes of eye infections. Take the time to clean and disinfect contacts according to manufacturer directions. Geist notes that one-day disposable lenses, if appropriate, lower the risk of infection even further.
7. Feast for the eyes.
The adage about carrots being good for your eyes is true—but studies have found that leafy green vegetables like spinach and colored fruits such as blueberries also affect visual performance and may prevent age-related eye diseases. Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, such as wild salmon, can help, too. In a large 2008 European study, participants who ate oily fish at least once a week had half the risk of developing neovascular macular degeneration as those who ate fish less often. “A natural fish oil supplement is also helpful in promoting natural tear production,” says Geist. Additionally, eat to maintain a healthy body weight; excess pounds have been proven to increase the risk of diabetes, which can lead to diabetic retinopathy, as well as other health problems that are linked to eye disease.
8. Know your genes.
Although it’s clear that environmental factors play a significant role, many eye conditions and diseases are hereditary. So, being aware of your family’s eye health history will ensure that you and your doctor stay on top of any potential problems you may have down the road.
Do you have a trick for maintaining your eye health? Let us know in the comments below!
[Images: Courtesy of Getty Images/People Images, Getty Images/ David Sthuerland/Photographer’s Choice]
This article was first published in the March 2017 issue of NAILPRO