Many people don’t consider the environment they live in a factor in their eye health. They don’t realize that external things like weather and living costs can contribute to all sorts of vision impairment problems, even if they practice good habits and hygiene with their eyes.
So, using a combination of factors such as altitude, humidity, temperature, pollution, etc., we’ve compiled a list of the best and worst cities to live in for your eye health.
The Best Cities in the USA for Eye Health
According to an expert LASIK surgeon in Orange County, the following ten cities are the best in the United States for your eye health. Notably, almost all of these are located either in the Pacific Northwest or the Southeast.
- Tacoma, Washington
- Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida
- Charleston, South Carolina
- Mobile, Alabama
- Portland-Vancouver, Oregon and Washington
- Orange County, California
- Honolulu, Hawaii
- Jacksonville, Florida
- New Orleans, Louisiana
- Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Washington
The cities were chosen based on several factors. We’ll be explaining more about them below.
Low altitude cities like Tacoma and Sarasota have an abundance of oxygen in the air. This is important because your eyes (particularly the cornea) lack blood vessels, which means they can’t get oxygen-rich blood from the heart. Our eyes had evolved to get oxygen from our environment instead to keep them nice and moist, preventing them from drying out. This is also why eye doctors recommend you take out contacts a few hours a day—your eyes need exposure to oxygen!
Rainy or cloudy days may seem gloomy, but you’d never catch your eyes shedding a tear over it. That’s because too much exposure to UV rays from the sun can cause a variety of diseases like cataracts, eye cancer, and eye growths!
There ain’t much sunshine in Portland or Seattle, but at least you’re protected from the sun’s harmful UV rays!
As a provider of laser eye surgery in Orange County, we know how much of a pain in the butt humidity can be. Not only do we have to deal with extremely hot summers, but we also have to deal with being perpetually sweaty and sticky!
Nonetheless, there is a hidden benefit to high humidity. Cities like Orange County and Honolulu are good for eye health because they promote tear production and help our eyes retain moisture. You’re less likely to pull out the eye drops in these cities!
While they may seem harmless, pollutants in the air have adverse short-term and long-term effects on your eyes. That’s why people living in cities with low pollution such as Jacksonville and Tacoma generally have healthier eyes—with less dust, dirt, and other irritants floating around in the air, their eyes are clean, moist, and healthy.
People get distracted way too easily on the computer. Before long, their eyes are dry and tired after spending hours scrolling through Facebook or watching random videos on YouTube!
If you live in New Orleans or Mobile, you probably don’t spend as much time on your mobile phone or computer. We don’t know exactly why that is, but we’re not complaining!
The longer you’re out and about in the city, the longer you’re exposed to pollutants, sun exposure, and other things that can irritate the eye. Unsurprisingly, commute time is a huge factor in eye health given how many people have to commute every day for work or school.
Commuters in smaller cities like Charleston and Sarasota have a shorter commute time.
The Most Eye Health-Conscious Cities in the USA
While the previous section had a list of cities that were healthy for the eyes, this section has a list of cities that prioritize their eye health. Compiled by VSP Vision, the largest non-profit eye health provider in the country, residents in this city are the likeliest to visit their eye doctors for annual check-ups or vision problems.
- Reno, Nevada
- Boise, Idaho
- Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
- Des Moines, Iowa
- Raleigh, North Carolina
- Redding, California
- Colorado Springs, Colorado
- Fayetteville, Arkansas
- Denver, Colorado
- Tulsa, Oklahoma
“An annual eye exam should be a part of everyone’s overall healthcare routine, not only to keep their vision healthy, but also to leverage its proven preventative health benefits,” says VSP Vision President, Kate Renwick-Espinosa. “Your eye doctor is often the first to spot signs of chronic conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. It’s critical that you visit your eye doctor annually to ensure the health of your eyes as well as your wellness overall.”
Looks like the rest of the United States could take a page out of their books!
Another interesting tidbit they found was that women were more likely to visit the eye doctor than men in all cities, both good and bad. 58% of their total respondents were women. Why men are less likely to go for a check-up is another topic entirely, and you could read more about the fascinating psychology behind it here.
The Worst Cities in the USA for Eye Health
On the other side of the spectrum, the following ten cities are the least favorable places to live in for your eye health. If you want to keep your eyes safe and protected, then you need to take extra care and precaution. Otherwise, you’ll have to start saving up for laser eye surgery costs!
- Denver, Colorado
- Albuquerque, New Mexico
- Salt Lake City-Ogden, Utah
- Wichita, Kansas
- Las Vegas, Nevada
- Kansas City, Missouri
- El Paso, Texas
- Chicago, Illinois
- Phoenix-Mesa, Arizona
- Tulsa, Oklahoma
As you can see, the cities are a bit more spread out than in the previous list.
High altitude cities like Denver and Salt Lake City have less oxygen in the air, and the weather can get very cold and biting during the wintertime. This combination can be aggravating on your eyes that have to work double-time to keep everything warm and moist!
When it gets snowy and icy in these cities, there’s another worrying condition you need to worry about—snow blindness. This happens when harmful UV rays from the sun are reflected on the ice and into your eyes. It can cause blurry vision, irritation, sensitivity, and even vision loss.
Protective gear like sunglasses isn’t just for summer—they’re also a must for winter.
Sunshine might be associated with happiness and joy, but it can get pretty dangerous for the eyes. Too much exposure to sunlight can permanently damage the surface of your eye before you even realize it! As we mentioned earlier, you can develop conditions like cataracts and eye growths easily if you aren’t careful enough.
Always wear sunglasses when walking around Las Vegas or Kansas City!
All specialists in LASIK in Orange County would probably agree that low humidity has more disadvantages than high humidity. Not only does it dry out the eyes, but it also dries out the skin (e.g., hands, lips), sinuses, and hair.
Additionally, research has shown that low humidity increases the spread of viruses and bacteria. With less moisture in the air, airborne particles can easily travel around. Our hair-like projections in the nose and lungs called cilia also function less in low humidity, making it harder for them to protect us. This makes us especially vulnerable to viral eye diseases like conjunctivitis.
It would be good to have a humidifier if you live in cities like Mesa and Albuquerque.
Larger cities like El Paso and Chicago typically have tons of pollutants coming from car and truck exhausts, factories, construction and demolitions, and more. This makes their residents susceptible to irritation because of all the particles rubbing against their eyes.
Life in the city may not be fun, but be prepared for the onslaught of pollutants!
If you live in windy cities with air pollution, the last thing you want to do is have the wind blow pollutants and irritants right into your eyes. Tulsa and Wichita ranked high only on this list because a good breeze is enough to have your eyes reddening and stinging.
Computer vision syndrome (also known as digital eye strain) is a set of conditions caused by excessive screen time on devices. Due to things like extensive computer usage, poor lighting, high glare from screens, poor seating posture, improper viewing distances, and others, people eventually develop eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and more.
In major cities like Denver and Chicago where everything is well-connected on the Internet, computer vision syndrome is a major problem. Even worse, it’s not talked about as much because computer usage only boomed in the last decade or so. However, we can assure you that digital eye strain is very much a real thing and something to think about the next time you’re on your computer.
As we mentioned earlier, a longer commute time means longer exposure to the elements. Chicago has one of the longest commute times in the country, along with New York City, Washington D.C., and San Francisco. Additionally, many of the country’s public transportation systems are a haven for pollutants and bacteria, which only makes things worse for your eyes.
The Least Eye Health-Conscious Cities in the USA
If you’re contemplating getting laser eye surgery in Orange County, you’d already be faring a lot better than people living in these cities. According to VSP Vision’s report, people living in these areas are the least likely in the country to visit their eye doctors.
- Cleveland, Ohio
- Bakersfield, California
- Merced, California
- Akron, Ohio
- Albuquerque, New Mexico
- Detroit, Michigan
- Stockton, California
- Santa Rosa, California
- Bridgeport, Connecticut
- Salinas, California
Now, there are plenty of possible reasons why people won’t visit their eye doctors, but probably the most prevalent of them is the expensive cost or lack of coverage in their medical insurance. Indeed, if you take a look at the list, you’ll see that Californian cities comprise half of it. That’s not surprising considering that California is the third-most-expensive state in the country to live in!
Another reason why people don’t go is that they feel like they don’t have to. According to a CDC report done in 2011, many think visual impairments are quite common and are a natural part of the aging process. Thus, they miss out on treating preventable eye diseases early on in their lives and start paying for it twofold as they get older.
Whatever their reasons are, it’s super important to not follow their lead. Not only does taking care of your eye health prevent vision-related problems like glaucoma and cataracts, but it also stays on top of other diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure that can quickly become life-threatening.
Luckily, the state of health insurance has relatively improved since the CDC published its report in 2011. Many insurance companies have started offering eye care as part of their coverage, so annual check-ups to your eye doctor should not be as expensive and inaccesible anymore. Please make sure your insurance provider covers eye care. Some examples include Aetna, Opticare, and United Health Care.
Additionally, many eye clinics have special financing options so you can pay off your procedures without breaking the wallet. At Excel Laser Vision Institute, for example, which is a trusted provider of LASIK in Orange County, we offer CareCredit and Vision Fee Plan that features a 3, 6, or 12-month no-interest payment plan and other extended payment options. Perfect eyesight will never be out of reach for us as we firmly believe this is something everybody deserves.
Always remember that not being conscious of your eye health will cost you not only money but also your vision.
This article is not meant to hype up or bring down certain cities. We know that not everybody has the privilege to live wherever they want in the country. We just want you to be more aware of how geographical locations can affect your eye health as it’s something most people don’t even think about. You need to be cognizant of these various factors so you can take preventive measures for your eye health, such as wearing sunglasses in cities with high UV exposure or carrying eye drops around in cities with low humidity.
Additionally, you can be conscious of your eye health no matter where you live in the country. Take good care of your eyes by practicing good habits and making regular trips to the eye doctor. Your vision is one of the most important senses and it’s important to protect it!
If you’re looking to improve your vision with LASIK in Orange County, then please contact Dr. Ferzaad Moosa at the Excel Laser Vision Institute at (310) 905-8622 today. Alternatively, you can fill out a free consultation form here!