Campus Queries is a series in which Daily Bruin readers and staff present science-related questions for UCLA professors and experts to answer.
Q: What is the best way to preserve eyesight?
A: Aside from getting glasses or going through laser eye surgery, there is little people can do to slow the rate of eyesight degradation, said Joseph Demer, an ophthalmologist at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. The best thing people can do for their eyesight is to maintain a healthy, balanced diet and refrain from smoking cigarettes, he said.
Eyesight worsens with age, just as most organs do from being worn out, Demer said.
“Eventually everyone gets clouding of the eye – this is called a cataract – if we live long enough,” Demer said.
Proteins in the eye that have existed since birth gradually deteriorate due to light exposure, he said. Taking health supplements is often ineffective unless the patient has age-related macular degeneration, he added.
A good diet helps ensure that the arteries connected to the eyes function properly. These arteries transport nutrients and oxygen to the eyes. Kale, salmon, oranges and black-eyed peas are particularly beneficial for eye health, according to an article published by the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Because the National Institutes of Health does not sponsor research relating to smoking marijuana, it is unknown whether it affects eyesight or not. However, it is clear that smoke has a negative impact on eyesight, Demer said. Smoking can increase one’s risk of developing cataracts, AMD and glaucoma among other ocular issues, he added. Smoking also increases the chances of heart disease and strokes, medical afflictions that can also hurt the eye.
Contrary to some rumors, glasses do not worsen their user’s eyesight, Demer said. However, he added lenses that are not properly prescribed can have severe visual consequences in some cases.
Demer said some ophthalmologists believe it can be harmful to undercorrect nearsightedness, but UCLA ophthalmologists do not believe that glasses can harm their users.
Demer added that there is no strong evidence to suggest that prolonged exposure to computer screens or handheld devices causes any more damage to eyesight than reading a book.
Ocular problems such as myopia are prominent in more educated populations, such as universities, because those populations spend more time doing close-up reading, Demer added.
Eyesight can be affected by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. For example, myopia has become more common across several generations in some Asian countries.
“You can see grandparents with no nearsightedness, and then 50 percent of the parents will have nearsightedness and about 90 percent of the kids will have it,” Demer said.
Some people believe myopia has become more common because people are going outside less and receiving less exposure to sunlight, which can help maintain healthy eyes, Demer said. Others believe it is due to increased exposure to blue light from phone and computer screens, he added. However, he said the exact cause of the increased rate of myopia is still unknown.