There’s no denying that veterans of the state, compared to all other citizens, are brave-hearts who make the most sacrifices for the safety and well-being of their fellow nationals and the sacred walls of their country. At the same time, they also face quite a number of health and medical challenges owing to their war-time experiences and tough circumstances. Eye problems are one such challenge that numerous veterans face, that not only limit their sense of sight but diminishes hope and vision of life for them.
As remarked by Dr. Stephen Hunt who is national director of the Veterans Affairs Post Deployment Integrative Care Initiative, “This is a population that has unique health care needs that need to be addressed.” He further stated that, “It’s something that really needs to be done by a team. We can’t do it without the collaboration of other providers, and the knowledge and presence of the community.”
So we, as your comrade-in-spirits, have put together a list of eye care tips that will help you whether it’s the optic nerve damage that dims the shades of the world’s beauty for your eyes or macular degeneration that made you lose focus of what’s central to your aim in life. With some good care we can retain the bright vivid colors you wish to see your life in!
1: Transform your Lifestyle!
For your eyes to be healthy, it is essential that you shape your lifestyle in a way that can help in optimum functioning of all bodily systems and thus minimize vision problems.
Reinvigorate your soldier-spirit, be an early riser and give your muscles a good workout, a 20 minute brisk walk in the least, which helps lower eye pressure. Designate a time of day particularly for exercising to improve blood circulation. Be sure to know your numbers and maintain a healthy weight as the extra fat can be dangerous and only serves to complicate health problems. Being obese or overweight makes you more vulnerable of developing systematic diseases such as diabetes which can lead to vision problems e.g. glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, ultimately leading to blindness.
Keep yourself well-hydrated, take small portions of liquid at regular intervals to keep low eye-pressure and try to fill your diet plan with healthy options as you take small meals scattered throughout the day.
Even though every person can benefit from this, it’s specifically ideal for veterans to bring the training of a lifetime back into action. As much as we sometimes underestimate the wonders of an overall healthy routine, it really is essential for the maintenance of all your body systems, let alone your vision. Apart from treating vision problems individually, a healthy lifestyle acts as a protective factor which minimizes damage and indirectly helps retain your eye health to its possibly best form.
2: Quit Smoking
According to research, stress, boredom and nicotine addiction have been identified as reasons why active-duty service members resorted to smoking and thus were more likely to retain the smoking habit in post-military life. Combined with other risk factors for veterans, smoking is injurious not just to their lungs but also vision health. Modern research has shown a greater vulnerability of smokers to develop macular degeneration as compared to non-smokers. In addition to smokers being at a higher risk to get cataract and glaucoma, the eye-condition of people who are already inflicted by these can worsen more quickly whilst their treatment and recovery becomes difficult.
Therefore, it is important that you recognize smoking as a health-enemy that prevents your chances of vision improvement and make an effort to get rid of it. Have a rehabilitation center assist you in the process if need be.
3: Eat Intelligently
As for any person, the rules of good health are much the same for veterans. Good eye health begins with the meal on your plate, the key is not to overcrowd your plate but to choose your foods in a nutrition specific way. Eat foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids i.e. oysters, salmon, sardines, halibut and walnuts. It helps improve blood flow and lower intraocular pressure. Fruits are your best bet to satisfy mid-day hunger pangs that also simultaneously lower your chances of developing glaucoma. Foods that contain high amounts of zinc such as beef, lamb, milk, cheese and yoghurt are particularly good for patients with macular degeneration.
It is preferable to cut down on caffeine as it leads to an immediate spike in eye pressure, while focusing more on the green variety of kale, spinach, broccoli and peas which contain lutein and zeaxanthin; these antioxidants may benefit people with macular degeneration.
4: Use Protective Eye-Gear
Whether you’re a veteran who finds their post-retirement recreation in being a backyard mechanic or invest your time in some other workplace, make sure that you wear protective eye-gear while doing sensitive tasks. In most work environments, employers are required to provide a safe work environment and if not, you should make sure to demand and arrange one. When protective eye-wear is needed as a part of your job, make it a habit of wearing the appropriate type at all times.
Also, make use of safety glasses, goggles and safety shields while playing sports, swimming, and doing other activities around the house. In places that have high-glare surfaces such as sand, water or snow, be sure to wear your safety glasses. These are designed to provide the correct protection for a certain activity and saves your eyes from damage.
5: Low Vision Devices can Help
Daily activities can often become quite challenging and rather stressful for people going through visual problems such as macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, tunnel vision and other conditions. However many low vision devices can transform this process into an easier one, devices such as hand-held magnifiers, reading glasses, video magnifiers and specialized low vision glasses such as Irisvision.
Tech efficient devices such as Irisvision are designed to help the patient overcome a number of visual difficulties such as macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, diabetic retinopathy, stargardt diseases, glaucoma, ocular albinism and such problems, while making daily chores fun and interesting.
6: Use Sun Protection for Eyes
Even though military life consists of a considerate period spent under the grazing heat of the sun, you should make effective arrangements to protect yourself against its harmful effects. Especially in the seasons of fall, winter and spring, your eyes may get more sunlight and are exposed to prolonged UV radiations for which you should use sun glasses. UV radiation exposure can be a risk factor in the development of eye conditions including cataracts and macular degeneration.
7: Take a break from Screens
If your workplace or fun-time activities require you to use a lot of screens, it is recommended that you restrict the time spent with your eyes glued to the screen or focusing on any one thing, or take frequent 3 minute breaks to cover your eyes and relieve your eye muscles. While using screens, you sometimes forget to blink and your eyes can get fatigued. Try the 20-20-20 rule: After every 20 minutes, look away somewhere at a distance of 20 feet from you for 20 seconds. This helps reduce eyestrain.
If it’s absolutely essential that you use a screen for a long time, avail options on your screen that allow you to work with an optimum brightness according to the lighting of your surroundings and your personal eye comfort. You can also toggle between light and dark mode for a more comfortable visual display during the day and night hours, while also keeping the eye strain minimum.
8: Ruling Out Other Rooted Medical Issues
Military life can be tough in more than just a few ways, which is to say that it may leave a person with scars that lead to mental and physical problems which stay with him long after the work tenure has faded away.
Medical records of veterans reveal that 1 in every 3 patients was reported to have at least one mental health disorder.
Mental health problems such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Substance Use Disorders, Traumatic Brain Injury, hazardous chemical exposures and problems of the like are commonly occurring among military personnel four-fold in comparison to other people.
In veterans who have PTSD and other neurological problems, the interconnections of the sensory vision system with structures of the limbic system may cause them to have hazy and blurred vision problems. Having ruled out the associated symptoms and the root cause, they may contact an optometrist who can provide the PTSD patients with an effective solution for their vision disorders through a well-directed treatment plan.
9: Improving Vision through Meditation
It is a less known fact that particular meditation techniques in addition to other treatments can substantially help improve vision problems such as astigmatism, myopia or hyperopia.
One such recognized technique is called “Trataka Kriya” which consists of sitting in a comfortable position and practicing focus on a particular object placed 2 meters farther from you. You can learn more about it here. Along with physiological impact that it creates, it also relieves tension. Guided meditation can also be useful as a means of improving eyesight.
10: Specific Eye Muscle Exercises
Simple eye exercises are helpful in strengthening muscle tone, improving blood circulation and thus vision problems. Palming, focus shifting, distance gazing and eye contractions are some of these which you can incorporate in your daily routine that help keep low eye strain and improve vision.
Eye problems such as glaucoma can be dealt with through specific exercises as well as yoga techniques such as Tratak Kriya which lower the intraocular pressure (IOP) resultantly slowing down the progression of glaucoma.
However you must keep in mind to avoid exercising poses that may cause pressure in the eye and are capable of inflicting more damage, such as headstands or shoulder stands – or even downward facing dog.