We go to considerable lengths to stay healthy and keep fit – we go to the gym, say no to that extra slice of chocolate cake and drink liters of water all in the name of good health. But what can we do to protect those most valuable organs, our eyes?

Without even thinking we potentially expose them to danger simply by going outside. Over time, the sun’s rays can seriously damage the eyes and surrounding skin, sometimes leading to vision loss and conditions from cataracts and macular degeneration to eye and eyelid cancers.

Everyone’s skin and eyes can be affected by the sun and other forms of ultraviolet (UV) rays. It is true that people with light skin are more likely to get sun damage, but darker-skinned people, including people of any ethnicity, can be affected. Simple daily protective strategies can help keep our eyes and the sensitive skin around them healthy. We just need to pay attention.

Regular Check-ups are Important

When was the last time you had an eye exam? When the budget is tight we seem to ignore things we don’t regard as necessary like eye examinations. Find out at your local clinic about free exams, especially if you are in a high risk group like if you have a family history of eye problems or diabetes. While it’s normal for vision to change with age, serious eye problems like glaucoma and macular degeneration (deterioration of retina that causes loss of detail vision) can be treated if detected early.

SPF for the Eyes

Sunglasses aren’t just for looking cool; they also block harmful ultraviolet and other rays than can play a role in the development of cataracts and macular degeneration. But you need to buy good quality shades. Don’t just look at the bling factor, look at the UV protection factor – you want 100 percent protection from the sun.
If you are going to spend time in the direct sun, wear a wide-brimmed hat, it is great for blocking rays.
With Kenya being right on the equator, the sun is fierce. It shoots out rays of different lengths. The most damaging are the ultraviolet rays, which are classified as UVA and UVB. This is what we need to protect our eyes (and skins) against. This is why our eyes need a good sun protection factor (SPF).

And don’t forget the children; their eyes need the same protection. How often do you see two adults out for a walk, both wearing designer shades and their kids, not even wearing caps or hats?

Eye Protection from Particles

Obviously anyone working around construction or manufacturing—any job with machinery and flying particles—must wear eye protection – there are safety regulations. So, why do you neglect to pay attention to the same things when you are working at home or in the garden? Most hardware shops sell inexpensive clear plastic eye protection. Those plastic goggles have saved many people with lawnmowers, angle grinders and weed eaters from serious injury.

Remember, chopping wood, hammering nails, sawdust, anything that can fly around can be dangerous to your eyes.

Take Care of Contact Lenses

Many people wear contact lenses instead of glasses. Only wear them when your eyes feel fine. Do not wear the lenses when your eyes feel irritated. Rather wear your glasses. Wearing your contacts when your eyes are irritated can turn a simple problem (irritation) into a significant problem (a corneal ulcer). Also, make sure you care for the lenses properly. Take care that your solutions aren’t expired and always keep your contacts clean.

Keep your Eyes Moist

As we age, we experience more dry eye symptoms. The main reason people have dry eyes is that the tear film doesn’t have the right consistency of water, mucus and oil. The oil part of your tears comes from little glands in your eyelids. As you blink, oil is supposed to coat the eyes. But if this coating is not enough, the tear film evaporates and eyes feel dry. Heat, wind and air conditioning can cause dry eyes. If your eyes are always dry and irritated, consult a doctor.

These are just a few ways to protect your eyes. Just don’t forget those shades when you are out in the sun; wear safety eyewear when you do any work that could cause bits to fly into your eyes and use your common sense – your eyes are precious.

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