Did you know?
Regular eye check-ups are the most important preventative measure that can be taken to protect your eye sight. According to the American Optometric Association, a comprehensive adult eye examination should include the following:
- Evaluation of the functioning ability of the eye and visual system
- Overall assessment of eye health
- Decisions pertinent to method(s) of treatment
- Patient education on eye conditions
An eye examination checks for near- and far-sightedness, pupil size, pupil response, color vision, ocular mobility, binocular vision and accommodation.
The AOA recommends the following frequency for eye examinations.
- Birth to 24-months: Check-up at birth and before the age of 6 months.
- 2-5 years old: At age three and also before starting school.
- 6-18 years old: Annually
- 19-60 years old: Every two years
- 61 and over: Annually
Eye Safety and Protection
Like your skin, your eyes never recover from UV exposure. UV-A and UV-B rays can cause macular degeneration and cataracts. UV exposure can also cause pterygia, which are benign growths on the eye surface. Excessive exposure to UV light reflected off sand, snow, water or pavement can damage the cornea, the eye’s surface.
To reduce your risk of UV exposure:
- Select sunglasses that block UV rays – they should be certified to block at least 99 percent of UV rays. Don’t be deceived by color or cost – the ability to block UV light is not dependent on the darkness of the lens or the price tag.
- Ideally, your sunglasses should wrap all the way around to your temples so the sun’s rays can’t enter from the side.
- In addition to your sunglasses, wear a broad-rimmed hat to protect your eyes. Remember that the sun’s rays can pass through haze and thin clouds.
Even if you wear contacts with UV protection, don your sunglasses, too.
- Sunglasses should be worn whenever you’re outside. It’s especially important to wear sunglasses in the early afternoon and in higher altitudes where UV light is more intense.
*Information gathered from the American Academy of Ophthalmology*
Nutrition and Your Eyes
Research has shown that the foods you eat can impact the development of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which are the two leading causes of blindness and visual impairment among millions of aging Americans. Currently, treatment options for these diseases are limited, making your food choices in relation to your eye health particularly important.
Vitamins C and E
Vitamins C and E have been shown by the Nutrition and Vision Project to reduce the risk for cataracts.
Most fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of vitamin C. To up your intake of vitamin C, eat oranges, orange juice, grapefruit, strawberries, papaya, green peppers, tomatoes, mango, broccoli and cauliflower.
Vitamin E can be found in vegetable oils (including safflower and corn oil), almonds, pecans, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, peanuts, turnip greens, mango, broccoli and pistachios.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
The Eye Disease Control Case Study found that lutein and zeaxanthin reduce the risk for eye disease as well.
The primary source of lutein and zeaxanthin are dark green leafy vegetables like spinach and greens. Lutein and zeaxanthin are also present in lesser amounts in broccoli, orange and green bell peppers, corn, peas, cabbage, oranges, green beans, persimmons and tangerines.
Beta-carotene, in addition to serving as a source of vitamin A, has been shown to reduce the risk of cataracts and AMD.
Beta-carotene can be found in carrots, mangos, sweet potatoes, spinach, cantaloupe, kale, apricots and broccoli.
In combination with other nutrients, zinc significantly slows the process of AMD.
Red meat and poultry provide the majority of zinc in the American diet. To increase your intake of zinc, you can also eat oysters, zinc-fortified cereal, beef tenderloin, chicken leg, pork loin, low-fat yogurt, dry-roasted mixed nuts and milk.
*Information obtained from the American Optometric Association*
Cataracts – clouding of all or part of the normally clear lens within the eye, which results in blurred or distorted vision. Cataracts are most often found in people over age 55, and there is no proven method to prevent them from forming. During a comprehensive eye examination, your optometrist can diagnose a cataract, monitor its development, and prescribe changes in eyeglasses or contact lenses to maintain good vision. If a cataract develops to the point that it affects daily activities, an optometrist can refer you to an eye surgeon who may recommend surgery.
Conjunctivitis – an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin, transparent layer that lines the inner eyelid and covers the white part of the eye. The three main types of conjunctivitis are infectious, allergic and chemical. The infectious type, commonly called “pink eye” is caused by a contagious virus or bacteria. The best way to treat allergic or chemical conjunctivitis is to avoid the cause. If that does not work, prescription or over-the-counter eye drops may relieve discomfort.
Macular degeneration – the leading cause of blindness in America that results from changes to the macula, a portion of the retina that is responsible for clear, sharp vision and is located at the back of the eye. Most people with macular degeneration have the dry form, for which there is no known treatment. The less common wet form may respond to laser procedures if it’s diagnosed and treated early.
Glaucoma – an eye disease in which the internal pressure in the eyes increases enough to damage the nerve fibers in the optic nerve and cause vision loss. Glaucoma cannot be prevented, but if diagnosed and treated early, it can be controlled. The treatment for glaucoma includes prescription eye drops and medicines to lower the pressure in the eyes. In some cases, laser treatment or surgery may be effective in reducing pressure.
Ocular hypertension – an increase in the pressure in the eyes that is above the range considered normal, but there are no detectable changes in vision or damage to the structure of the eyes as there are with glaucoma. However, there is an increased risk of glaucoma among those with ocular hypertension. An optometrist can check the pressure in your eyes with an instrument called a tonometer and can examine the inner structures of your eyes to assess overall eye health.
Dry eye – the eyes do not produce enough tears or the tears produced do not have the proper chemical composition. Often dry eye is part of the natural aging process. Dry eye cannot be cured, but your optometrist can prescribe treatment so your eyes remain healthy and your vision is unaffected. Are you suffering from dry eye?
Anterior uveitis – an inflammation of the middle layer of the eye, which includes the iris (colored part of the eye) and adjacent tissue, known as the ciliary body. If untreated, it can cause permanent damage and loss of vision. Treatment usually includes prescription eye drops, which dilate the pupils, in combination with anti-inflammatory drugs.
Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) – a group of inherited diseases that damage the light-sensitive rods and cones located in the retina, the back part of the eyes. Signs of RP usually appear during childhood or adolescence, and over the years, the disease causes further loss of side vision. Currently, there is no cure for RP, but there is research that indicates that vitamin A and lutein may slow the rate at which the disease progresses.
Keratoconus – a vision disorder that occurs when the normally round cornea (the front part of the eye) becomes thin and irregular (cone) shaped. This abnormal shape prevents the light entering the eye from being focused correctly on the retina, causing distortion of vision. Eyeglasses or soft contact lenses may be used to correct the mild nearsightedness and astigmatism that is caused by the early stages for keratoconus. As the disorder progresses and cornea continues to thin and change shape, rigid gas permeable contact lenses can be prescribed to correct vision adequately.
Blepharitis – a chronic or long-term inflammation of the eyelids and eyelashes. In many cases, good eyelid hygiene and a regular cleaning routine may control blepharitis.
*Information gathered from the American Optometric Association*
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