Taking Care of Your EyesPrint Page
When was the last time you had a routine eye exam? Two years? Five years? Perhaps you’ve never had an exam. They may not seem important and you may feel like your vision is perfect, but a regular eye exam cannot only determine the health of your eyes and vision, but can also detect signs of other health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. The eyes can tell us a lot! Eye exams are pretty routine, but there are specific things an eye doctor will look for, depending on your age:
Babies and Toddlers – Approximately 80% of what children learn is through their eyes. Impaired vision can affect a child’s cognitive, emotional, neurologic, and physical development by potentially limiting his or her exposure to a range of experiences and information. Eye exams should be scheduled at six months (or earlier if problems are detected), again between 2-3 years of age, and before kindergarten.
Children – More than one in four school-age children have some form of a vision problem. Studies show that 60% of students identified as problem learners have undetected vision troubles. Eye exams should be scheduled annually, usually prior to the start of a new school year.
Adults – More than four million Americans over the age of 40 have some form of vision impairment. Eye exams should be scheduled yearly.
Seniors – As we age, we’re more susceptible to cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness among Americans aged 65 and older. Glaucoma affects more than 3 million Americans, but only half are aware they have the disease because the symptoms are so subtle. Eye exams should be scheduled annually.
People with Diabetes – Diabetes is one of the top three causes of blindness in the United States. An annual eye exam can help prevent most diabetes-related blindness.
Although annual eye exams are important, it’s how you take care of your eyes the rest of the year that really matters. Here are some tips for ensuring good eye health:
- Eat a diet rich in antioxidant vitamins A (beta-carotene), C, and E, all of which can reduce the risk of developing advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Certain minerals, like zinc, have also been shown to help reduce this risk. High levels of zinc, along with high levels of antioxidant vitamins can reduce AMD by about 25 percent.
- Avoid dangers and accidents by wearing protective eyewear, particularly when playing sports, working in the yard or workshop, or completing other home projects. Protective eyewear may seem like a hassle, but it also might save your sight.
- Wear sunglasses when outdoors. They’re protective barriers that cut down exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, a portion of the sun’s rays that can cause such eye diseases as cataracts and macular degeneration. When buying sunglasses, price is not a good indicator of sunglasses’ protective quality. The most important thing to look for is whether they provide protection from ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B (UVA and UVB) radiation.
- Just like the rest of your body, your eyes need proper rest. Eyestrain, from reading, watching TV, or working at a computer, doesn’t really injure the eyes, but it makes the muscles around them tired or strained. The best cure for eyestrain is to give those muscles a rest. Take a break from what you’re doing, close your eyes and give them nothing to look at for a while, or stare off at the distance for a few minutes.
- Eyestrain doesn’t harm your eyes, but it can cause discomfort, such as watery or dry eyes, difficulty focusing, fatigue, and even headaches. If you’re bothered by long-lasting, frequently recurring eyestrain, see your eye-care professional.
- Use proper lighting, particularly when reading or working on the computer. Dim light won’t hurt your eyes but it can tire them out more quickly. The finer the task, the more light required. If you find it bothers your eyes to watch TV in the dark, keep the light on. When working at the computer, use an anti-glare filter and make sure the monitor is at or just below eye level and just a bit farther away than you’d hold a book while reading.
- If you have glasses or contacts, use them. There’s no sense in putting extra strain your eyes if you don’t have to. When using contacts, ensure that you’re following all hygiene recommendations to prevent unnecessary issues that may result from improper use.
- People with diabetes need to take extra care in protecting their eyes, as the complications with diabetes can pose a serious threat to the eyes. Diabetics are at risk for diabetic retinopathy, where abnormal blood vessels grow across the retina, damaging vision. It is also the leading cause of blindness in people younger than 60 years of age in the United States and Canada. Diet, medication, and exercise are key to controlling diabetes and reducing the risk of retinopathy. Those recently diagnosed with Type II Diabetes should have an eye exam soon after diagnosis – if caught early, advancement of retinopathy can sometimes be halted by laser treatment.
If you haven’t already, be sure to schedule your annual eye exam today! If you have our VSP insurance, exams cost $10.00 for an in-network provider. Go to vsp.com to locate a provider.