The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that in the United States around 12 million people of 40 years of age and older have some form of vision impairment. This includes:
- 3 million people with vision impairment following correction
- 8 million people with vision impairment from an uncorrected refractive error
- 1 million people or more who have a type of blindness
However, poor eyesight does not have to be an inevitable consequence of getting older. There are some natural ways and lifestyle interventions that can help a person improve and protect their eyesight.
In this article, we present 11 ways to improve eyesight without corrective glasses.
1. Protective eyewear
Wearing safety glasses in potentially hazardous environments will help prevent eye injuries.
Eye injuries can result from a range of everyday activities including household chores, playing sports, or working with certain types of equipment or in potentially hazardous environments.
Protective eyewear can help prevent injury, damage, and irritation to eyes from impacts, debris, and chemicals. Depending on the activity, appropriate protection can include:
- safety glasses
- face masks, shields, and visors
Regular eyeglasses do not generally provide adequate protection from hazards and can shatter if they become damaged.
Sunglasses are not just a fashion accessory, as they also help protect the eyes from ultraviolet (UV) light.
Excessive UV exposure can damage the eyes. UV light can also increase a person’s risk of:
People at particular risk of eye damage from UV light include:
- those who spend a lot of time outdoors or in the midday sun
When purchasing sunglasses, it is essential to choose a pair with adequate UV protection. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat is another way to protect the eyes from UV light.
It is also important to remember that UV rays can pass through clouds and occur all-year round, even in winter.
3. Regular eye exams
According to the National Eye Institute, having a comprehensive dilated eye exam is the only way for people to be sure that their eyes are fully healthy.
During this examination, an eyecare professional uses special drops to widen the person’s pupils, which allows them to see into the back of the eyes and look for problems.
A dilated eye exam can help detect eye conditions in their early stages, such as glaucoma and macular degeneration.
4. Screen breaks
Working on computers or focusing on one thing for extended periods can cause eyestrain or fatigue.
People who spend a lot of time in front of computers or mobile devices may wish to try the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look away from the screen at something around 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This exercise can help to reduce eyestrain.
5. Controlling diabetes
Sudden changes in blood sugar can cause temporary blurred vision.
A potential complication of type 1 and type 2 diabetes is an eye condition that doctors refer to as diabetic retinopathy.
High levels of sugar in the blood can gradually damage the blood vessels in the retina, causing them to become swollen, leaky, or blocked. This can also result in the growth of scar tissue and new, abnormal blood vessels.
Without treatment, diabetic retinopathy can lead to impaired vision and eventually blindness. People with poor blood sugar control are at higher risk of developing this condition.
Sudden changes in blood sugar can also cause blurry vision that resolves when levels become steadier.
Maintaining good blood sugar control and having an annual eye examination can help reduce the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.
6. Managing chronic conditions
There are other health conditions besides diabetes that can contribute to vision problems.
The CDC report that people aged 65 years or older who have vision impairment are more likely to have a chronic condition.
These conditions include:
Multiple sclerosis (MS) can also cause visual impairment and changes in retinal structure.
Getting appropriate treatment for chronic conditions can help reduce a person’s risk of developing complications, such as eye problems.
Research shows that vitamins A, C, and E are all good for eye health.
These vitamins have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may decrease the risk of macular degeneration.
The best way for a person to ensure they are getting enough of these vitamins is to eat a varied, balanced diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables. Good sources of vitamins A, C, and E include:
- sweet potato
- red peppers
- peanut butter
- sunflower seeds
Studies also suggest omega-3 fatty acids, such as docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid, play a role in eye health and reduce the risk of age-related eye disease.
Foods rich in omega-3s include fish, nuts, seeds, and beans. A person can also purchase omega-3 supplements online.
Carotenoids are present in the retina and may help to limit oxidative damage.
According to a 2013 review, the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin are important for eye health.
Green, leafy vegetables are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, but a person can also take them in supplement form. A range of dietary supplements containing lutein and zeaxanthin are available to purchase online.
9. Quitting smoking
Science has clearly established that smoking is bad for a person’s health and can cause cancer. However, many people may not realize that there is also a link between smoking and a number of eye diseases.
Smoking increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and uveitis. It can also increase the risk of diabetic retinopathy.
Tobacco smoke is also irritating to the eye, which can make dry eye worse.
Quitting smoking can help reduce the risk of these eye diseases.
10. Good hygiene
A person should wash their hands before touching contact lenses.
Practicing good hygiene can help prevent eye infections.
It is important for people to wash their hands thoroughly before touching their eyes or handling contact lenses. It is sensible to always carefully follow the manufacturer’s or doctor’s instructions for disinfecting and replacing contacts.
Old eye makeup can also increase the risk of eye infections. People may wish to consider discarding eye makeup that has been open for more than 3 months. If a person develops an eye infection, it is advisable to throw away and replace all open eye makeup products.
11. Family history
Some eye diseases can run in families. People may wish to talk to their close relatives to find out about their eye health history.
Knowing about eye conditions that run in the family can allow a person to take precautions. It is also necessary for people to inform healthcare professionals and eye doctors about their family history.
Eye conditions that can run in families include:
- age-related macular degeneration
- optic neuropathies
Getting older and certain health conditions can affect a person’s vision. However, there are many steps a person can take to improve and protect their eyesight. These can include simple things such as washing hands, quitting smoking, getting enough vitamins, and wearing protective eyewear.
Maintaining a healthful weight and eating a balanced, healthful diet can also reduce the risk of developing diabetes and other chronic conditions that can lead to eye problems.