5 Ways to Naturally Improve Eye Health

Our eyes are the windows through which we see the beautiful world around us. We wouldn’t want those panes to get dirty, cracked, or shut out altogether, would we?

The ocular system is a complex configuration of blood vessels and fluids that work tirelessly to make out the details in front of us during each of our waking hours. Clearly, keeping these organs healthy to preserve one of our most valuable senses should be a top priority. Unfortunately, many eye diseases cause irreversible damage and vision loss, sometimes appearing because of linked health conditions experienced throughout the entire body (not to mention the strong role genetics have in our vision).

But outside of finding ways to simply live alongside eye care shortcomings (like using glasses, contact lenses, and other eyewear for astigmatism), you might assume the ability to improve the health of your eyes naturally doesn't exist. Thankfully, nothing could be further from the truth!

Here are 5 quick tips to naturally improve the health of your eyes and keep them in tip-top condition for the long run.

1. Eat a Colorful Diet

Many harmful eye conditions can crop up as you age due to the lack of vitamins and nutrients in your body. Age-related macular degeneration, for instance—also known as ARMD—is a harmful condition of the macula, or the back portion of your eye in the center of the retina. This delicate part of the eye grows thinner at older ages and becomes less efficient at using valuable minerals to replace its dying cells. People with macular degeneration often permanently lose their central vision. Cataracts are also more likely to come about in eyes that are nutrient-deficient, and type 2 diabetes (ultimately culminating in diabetic retinopathy) can wreak ocular havoc on people who eat poorly and forgo exercise.

According to the American Optometric Association, the eyes mainly utilize the vitamins lutein, fatty acids, vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids, carotenoids, and zinc, so ensuring your diet contains foods rich in these nutrients will have an immense impact on the longevity of your vision. Vitamin A, vitamin E, and zeaxanthin have also been shown to bolster ocular health. Foods that are good for the eyes include broccoli, fish, eggs, collards and leafy greens, colorful fruits and vegetables, sweet potatoes, citrus fruits, and nuts. Try to stay away from the processed meals and load up on antioxidants, too—your eyes (and entire body) will thank you!

If you have any questions about supplements, a healthy diet for overall health in the eyes, or vision problems, always make it a point to visit your eye doctor and receive regular eye exams!

2. Allow Your Eyes to Rest

Ever notice how your eyes tend to lag, get droopy, lose focus, and burn close to bedtime? That’s because they’re constantly at work throughout the day and eventually suffer from fatigue. Performing close-up, intricate tasks like reading and sewing will especially tire them out quickly, but even a full day of spending time outside and making use of distance vision will leave them feeling sleepy. Your tear production even becomes less efficient in the later hours, causing symptoms of dryness and irritation.

Just as you feel the need to lie down and rest when you’re tired, your eyes need time to close and replenish their energy each day to avoid the effects of eye strain. Getting a proper 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night (for adults) will provide your eyes with the proper rest needed to recalibrate and come back strong for the next day, reducing the likelihood of developing dry eyes. Good sleep will also help discourage specific eye diseases like glaucoma by helping to regulate fluid pressure in the eye so it doesn't press too hard on the optic nerve throughout the day.

3. Mind Your Screen Time

Screens are all around us these days, from smartphones and computers to tablets and even refrigerator displays! But what do screens really do to your eyes?

Nothing permanently bad, mind you, but certainly nothing good either. As mentioned in the previous tip, eye strain is an ongoing problem for many people who live busy lives and stay up late at night. Exposure to LED screens is part of the issue. The screens of your electronics are often backlit by a tiny wall of LEDs (light-emitting diodes) that give off light that’s highly concentrated in the blue end of the color spectrum. Because blue light contains the most energy per photon out of all the wavelengths, this light is particularly taxing for your retinas to absorb, creating a fast track to eye strain. Your eyes will also tend to blink less often while staring at screens due to the amount of focus required on a small space.

Fortunately, there are a few solutions to blue light eye problems. One involves downloading or enabling special filters on your screens that change the backlighting to a warm yellow tone that is much softer on the eyes. Artificial tear drops are another option to keep your eyes lubricated and fresh if screentime is unavoidable. Lastly, try out the 20-20-20 rule, a practice which has you look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. This will give your eyes a chance to readjust by focusing on something away from your screen. Such a technique can also keep you from developing myopia, a near-sighted condition that can emerge after looking at things close to you too frequently (mostly seen in young children, but can sometimes occur in adults too).

4. Perform Occasional Eye Exercises

Can you really give your eyes a workout? Yes, you can!

Performing short eye exercises can give the muscles that move your eyes up, down, left, and right (called the recti) some strength training to keep them functional and responsive. Healthy eye muscles can help prevent misalignment conditions such as crossed eyes (strabismus), double vision, and lazy eyes from cropping up.

What sorts of eye exercises can you do? For starters, try looking to the side without turning your head, then slowly move your eyes to the other side (don’t forget to perform this in the up-down and diagonal directions too). Each exercise should be done for 30 seconds or so.

Another eye exercise involves tracing out figure 8s with your eyes. You can also strengthen your focusing abilities by holding your thumb in front of you, staring at it for 10 seconds, then focusing on a more distant object for 10 seconds.

Even your lids can be worked by rapidly blinking for a minute or two. Give these exercises a try to make sure your eye muscles are trained and ready to go!

5. Protect Your Eyes from Bacteria

Did you know the eyes are one of the most common entrances for harmful bacteria to get into your body? That’s because you often touch your face and rub your eyes with your hands. This is often how eye viruses—like viral conjunctivitis—can spread.

A natural way to keep this from happening is to simply limit how often you touch your face while washing your hands whenever possible. However, these can be tasks that are easier said than consistently done when bacteria are a constant threat! A sink and hand soap aren’t always available, after all.

Instead, consider stopping infection at the source by using quality hand sanitizer on the go to kill off the germs residing on your fingertips. Muse Health features a high-grade fragrance-free hand sanitizer that eliminates 99% of bacteria while moisturizing your skin with natural oils at the same time. Visit the store page to learn more, and don’t forget to stock up to keep your eyes and body safe!