Like a computer
Your eyes are amazing! In an instant they can capture light, form an image, and send a signal to your brain to tell you what’s in the world around you. They are like little computers, working fast to tell you what’s going on. And JUST LIKE computers, you need to take care of them.
Take a break from video games, your phone, or homework every once in a while. The rule is: Every 20 MINUTES look at something 20 FEET away for 20 SECONDS. Remember to blink, and give your eyes a break!
Do you wear glasses? How about your parents? Needing to wear glasses can be hereditary (her-RED-it-terry), which means that if one or both of your parents wear glasses (except for reading glasses) to fix their vision, you might also need them.
Although needing glasses is more likely, it’s not always the case. Some children whose parents wear glasses never need them, and some children whose parents have 20/20 vision end up being the first ones in their family to need glasses.
There are many things that can happen (for example: growth spurts) that can cause your eyes to change. But don’t worry! There are lots of cool frame options, and LOTS of people wear them, so you’re not alone.
Near-sighted and far-sighted…
Did you know that there are two main kinds of vision problems that need to be corrected with glasses? They’re called Myopia (My-O-pee-a) and Hyperopia (Hi-per-O-pee-a).
MYOPIA is also called “Near-sightedness.” When you are NEAR-sighted (My-AW-pic), you can see things close up, but they start to look blurry farther away.
HYPEROPIA is called “Far-sightedness.” If you are FAR-sighted (Hi-per-AW-pic) things close up are blurry, but you can see far away.
Strabismus and Amblyopia
Another eye problem, which may be fixed by the time childhood is over, is Amblyopia (Am-blee-OP-pee-ya). Amblyopia is sometimes caused by Strabismus (stra-BIZ-muss), which is a condition where the eyes don’t focus on the same spot.
AMBLYOPIA, also known as “lazy eye,” happens when the eyes just don’t line up, and one eye becomes stronger than the other. The eye that gets less use is in danger of becoming permanently unfocused, if left untreated.
BUT if the condition is caught early in childhood, it can be treated by patching the “good” eye, which lets the eye that has trouble focusing do the work. If you see a kid with an eyepatch, you MIGHT be looking at a very young pirate, but probably you’re actually looking at a kid on a mission to get their eyes working together.
Try this: Cover one eye and try to walk around…
Did you bump into anything? Can you see the whole room? With one eye closed, you lose DEPTH PERCEPTION, which is when the images from both eyes overlap; it’s what makes the whole world 3D. Without depth perception, you may bump into things. With one eye covered, you also don’t have full peripheral (per-RIFF-er-al) vision, which means that you can’t see everything you can normally see out of the corners of your eyes. With one eye covered, part of the room disappears!
People are coming up with new ways to fix amblyopia all the time. There are special glasses and special video games that can help, but not everyone has access to them. Until they are widely available, you might see kids with patches for a while. In some cases, eye exercises are not enough and some people need to have surgery to fix the strabismus that causes their amblyopia.
When you look at the world around you, do you ever wonder if everyone else sees what you’re seeing? Everyone’s eyes are full of RODS and CONES, but some people have fewer of the cones responsible for colour vision. This DOESN’T mean the whole world is black and white, and it DOESN’T mean that they can’t see any colour at all (except in VERY rare cases)! The most common colour vision problem is RED-GREEN colour blindness.
Red-green colour blindness is genetic, and affects more MALES than females. This form of colour blindness doesn’t mean you can’t tell red and green apart, it means that you mix up colours which have some red or green in them.
About 1 in 12 males are colour blind, but only 1 in 200 females are. This is because colour blindness is passed down on the X-chromosome, and females have 2 (one from their mother and one from their father) but males only have 1 (from the mother).
Because we have only seen the world through our own eyes, we might not realise that we are colour blind for many years. To check for colour vision, there is a special test you can do called the ISHIHARA PLATES TEST. Ishihara plates are a series of coloured dots, with numbers and pictures hidden in them. For someone who can see the full range of colours, most of the numbers and pictures will be easy to see, but for someone who is colour blind, only the plates designed to check which TYPE of colour blindness they have may be easy to read.
Summer sun means summer fun! You get to play outside, go camping, ride your bike, go to the beach… but with all the time you’re spending outside, you’re being exposed to UV light. The sun is a great source of energy, and it gives us the Vitamin D we need to stay healthy, but it can also be dangerous if you don’t take care.
Of course, on sunny days you remember to wear your sunscreen, because it’s hot out and you might get a sunburn! BUT, did you know that your eyes can also get sunburned? That’s one reason it’s important to wear UV protective sunglasses when you’re outside. Wearing sunscreen and sunglasses will help defend you from harmful UV rays, so that you can enjoy the sun for many years to come.
In winter, too
When we think of sun, we think of heat, so you might not think about sunglasses when the summertime ends. But, did you know that UV rays can harm your eyes all year long? AND on sunny winter days, the light reflecting off the snow can be so bright, it’s hard to see!
When you’re getting ready to go out, along with your coat, hat, mitts, and boots, remember to throw on a pair of shades to protect your eyes.
Did you know that UV rays from the sun can pass through clouds? Even when it’s not hot and bright outside, the powerful sun can still harm your eyes.
Whatever the season, on overcast days, you should still wear your sunglasses outdoors. In fact, making it a habit to put on your shades whenever you leave the house will help keep your eyes healthy in the long run!
Soccer, baseball, hockey, archery… whatever sport you like to play, if there’s a chance something could hit you in the face, safety eyewear is a good idea. Getting hit in the face by a soccer ball can hurt, and you’ve seen hockey and football players wear helmets to protect their heads and their eyes. But even games like badminton have the potential to injure your eyes if you’re not wearing safety glasses. Thousands of people visit emergency rooms every year for sport related injuries to the eyes. Play safe and protect yourself with safety eyewear.
Every good scientist knows that safety equipment is the most important thing on your checklist before you begin an experiment. Lab coats shield your clothes from mess, gloves cover your hands in case of spills, and safety goggles protect your eyes from substances that could endanger your vision. Your eyes are very delicate, and a splash of the wrong thing could burn them, sometimes causing permanent damage. Safety goggles provide a barrier to make sure that doesn’t happen.
If something DOES get in your eye, your lab should be equipped with an eyewash station. You should make sure your teacher or supervisor knows what went in your eye, and how much, and they’ll be able to help you rinse your eyes for 15 minutes. Depending on what went in your eye, you may need to take a trip to the emergency room.
Sawdust, shards of wood, nails, wood glue… there are a lot of things in a woodshop that can hurt your eyes if they get too close. Building things can be fun and rewarding, but don’t forget to arm yourself with the right equipment first! Just as you need to be safe around chemicals, you need to be safe in a woodshop. Safety goggles are among the most important tools you’ll use. Wear them at all times when you’re in the shop to prevent debris from entering your eyes, and to act as a barrier in case of a bigger accident.
If something small, like sawdust, gets in your eye, you can usually rinse it out with help from an adult. But if something larger gets in your eye, and especially if it impales your eye, don’t try to take it out. Someone with first aid training can wrap it in a special way to make sure it doesn’t move, and then you should go immediately to an emergency room.
What if I wear glasses?
You have three options if you wear glasses:
- Find safety eyewear designed to go over top of your glasses.
- Get prescription safety eyewear. If you play a lot of sports, this might be a good option.
- For some activities, you can wear contact lenses and regular safety eyewear over top. Remember: Contact lenses and water don’t mix! You should never shower or swim with contact lenses in.
Don’t rub your eyes
Your eyes are very delicate! If you rub them too hard, you can scratch your cornea (KOR-nee-a), the clear layer of your eye. A corneal abrasion (scratch on your eye) can be very painful, and like any scrape or cut it leaves your eye open for infection. Even without a scratch, dirty hands can introduce germs into your eyes that can make you sick.
If you feel like there is something small in your eye, like an eyelash or a piece of sand, resist the urge to rub. Follow these instructions for safely dealing with debris in your eyes.
REMEMBER: if it’s glass, metal, or something large, it’s an emergency, and you should get medical help as soon as possible.
If your eyes could talk
If your eyes could talk, what do you think they would tell you they want for dinner? Each part of your body needs nutrients (NOO-tree-ents) to stay healthy and strong, and while you may have heard about “eating for your heart” have you ever thought about what the best foods are for your eyes?
Lutein and zeaxanthin
The veggies your eyes crave the most are LEAFY GREENS!
Spinach, kale, and other dark, leafy green vegetables are chock full of two nutrients that are excellent for your eyes: lutein (LOO-teen) and zeaxanthin (Zee-a-ZAN-thin). Lutein and zeaxanthin are great at helping the macula (rhymes with Dracula) protect your eyes from damaging light.
One of the BEST sources of lutein and zeaxanthin is COOKED SPINACH. Cooking vegetables releases more ANTIOXIDANTS (An-tee-OX-id-dents), which is more beneficial to your eyes. If you don’t like cooked veggies, raw veggies still have good nutrients.
Don’t like spinach?
Other sources of lutein and zeaxanthin are:
- Other green veggies
- Citrus fruit
- Yellow or orange veggies
- Egg yolks
Eating leafy greens and other foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin now and throughout your life will help keep your macula strong so that when you are older, you can still see!
Can carrots make you see in the dark? NOPE! But they CAN help you see!
Carrots are full of vitamin A, also known as BETA-CAROTENE (BAY-ta CARE-o-teen). Just like lutein, beta-carotene is an antioxidant. It helps protect your eyes from things like cataracts (CAT-er-acts) and macular (MACK-you-ler) degeneration.
You can find beta-carotene in carrots, of course (especially cooked), but it’s also in lots of other foods, like:
- sweet potato
- kale (and other leafy greens)
- winter squash
- cantaloupe melon
- red peppers
Omega 3 fatty acids
Not everybody likes fish, but salmon is one of the BEST ways to get Omega 3 fatty acids for your eye health. Just a little bit goes a long way! Omega 3 fatty acids are especially important for developing fetuses, and for adults to prevent eye diseases like macular degeneration, but it’s never too early to get in the habit of eating well for your eyes! If you can, you should eat fish twice a week for your eye health.
But what if you REALLY don’t like fish?
You can find Omega 3 fatty acids in other foods, like:
- chia seeds
- flaxseed oil
You can also get some Omega 3 fatty acids from dark leafy green vegetables. HOWEVER, your body has trouble using Omega 3 fatty acids from vegetable sources, and you get a lot more out of fish!
Other good eye foods
What else can you eat to promote eye health? things like:
- fruits and veggies rich in Vitamin C
- whole grains
A balanced diet
So what should you eat for your eyes? The best thing to do is to eat a balanced diet every day. Fruits, veggies, and protein can all be used, not just for your eyes, but for your whole body’s health.
Something green, something orange, something yellow, something red, something blue… eat a RAINBOW every day to stay healthy.