There are so many myths and misconceptions about how to improve eyesight or prevent eye problems. Stop me if you’ve heard these:
“Eating carrots is good for your eyes.”
“Videogames ruin your eyesight.”
“Exercising your eye muscles will improve your vision.”
The trouble with these old wives’ tales about eyesight is that they lump all vision problems together and treat them the same. But the number and variety of common eyesight problems is staggering.
Some are curable, some can only be treated rather than cured, and other eye conditions are completely untreatable, though many are avoidable if you care for your eyes before you ever get any vision problems. So improving your eyesight if it’s already below average is very different from avoiding eye-damaging behaviour.
Here’s a run-down of the best ways to try to improve your eyesight, from the traditional to the technological.
Eat Well to See Well
The old wives’ tale about carrots helping you see in the dark isn’t entirely unfounded. Carrots contain a fair amount of Vitamin A, which can help to treat night blindness. And if you don’t like carrots, you can get almost as much Vitamin A from broccoli leaves, or sweet potatoes. But it’ll only work if you already have a vision problem caused by Vitamin A deficiency; for healthy eyes, extra carrots will make no difference.
Other healthy foods for your eyes include green leafy vegetables and fish. A diet with plenty of these foods is one of the reasons why the rate of age-related macular degeneration, a condition that causes a blind spot in the centre of your visual field, is falling in the developed world.
Exercise to Treat Focus Issues
Yes, eye exercises can improve your eyesight, but only if you suffer from an eye condition like double vision, uncoordinated eye movements, crossed eyes or an inability to cross your eyes, all of which hamper your ability to focus your vision.
A review of scientific evidence shows that no amount of eyeball exercise will cure nearsightedness, longsightedness, astigmatism, or the gradual blurriness of close-up focus that comes with increasing age.
Avoid Eye Strain
Too much strain on your eyes can lead to problems with your eyesight in the short term and the long term.
No matter what you’re doing, stop every 20 minutes or so to look at something else. If you’ve been doing up-close work, focus on a distant object for half a minute; if you’ve been staring out into the distance, look at something close by (your own hands, for example). The change in distance helps to prevent straining the muscles that adjust the focus of your eyes.
Another source of eye strain is light itself. Ultraviolet light damages your eyes, so wear UV-protective sunglasses to help prevent deterioration of your vision.
And bear in mind that our eyes evolved to handle light from the sun or a flame, so the electric light from streetlamps, computer screens and LEDs may cause more eye strain than natural light. Even that isn’t a sure thing, though; the benefits of electrically-lit experiences can outweigh the downsides.
Play High-Adrenaline Videogames
You might think certain activities, like watching TV or playing videogames, are pretty much guaranteed to make your eyesight worse. That’s not necessarily true.
Some videogames may help to improve your eyesight. Brain and sight scientists say that playing first-person shooter games like Medal of Honor leads to improvements in eyesight, including detail perception and visual processing speed. This applies even to gamers with healthy eyes, as well as to patients with “lazy eye” problems. Check out this TEDx talk for more benefits of videogames:
Make the Most of Technology
Natural ways to improve your eyesight may sound appealing to people with healthy eyes, but if you suffer from near- or long-sightedness then the question of how to improve eyesight can be answered most effectively by science and technology. Eyeglasses or contact lenses will instantly improve your visual focus, while laser surgery is a far more complex and permanent procedure with a recovery period before you experience the benefits.
Whatever condition your eyes are in, take good care of them and give them a rest every once in a while!