“Of all the senses, sight must be the most delightful”—Helen Keller.
I have heard people allude to our eyes as the window to our world and our soul. Our vision permits us to “see” things and facilitates an active life. That is why it is important that we take care of this “delightful” sense.
Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know: About Keeping Our Vision 20/20
Routine Eye Exams
The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends eye exams as follows: age 6 months, age 3 years, at the start of school, and every 2 years until age 60. It is recommended that at age 61, exams be performed yearly. Those who wear corrective lenses or are “at-risk,” defined as having a family history of eye disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, or taking certain medications, should undergo more frequent exams. If you are unsure, it is important to discuss this with your doctor to determine what is best for you (and those special loved ones you care for).
Many vision problems (e.g., near-sightedness, far-sightedness) and eye diseases (glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration) have no obvious symptoms. Early detection of these conditions is possible with routine exams. And it can facilitate early intervention that will help maintain good vision, eye health and possibly prevent vision loss.
It is important to note that vision difficulties in our children can interfere with their school performance, socialization and overall achievement. After all, the majority of information that children are taught is delivered visually.
Pay attention to warning signs and seek medical attention
Any sudden change in vision, development of blurred vision or difficulty with seeing, increased tearing, mucus secretion, eye injury, sudden appearance of spots, strings, or floaters in our field of vision, flashes of light, redness, eye pain or pressure, cloudy vision, or anything that concerns us.
Eat our way to healthy vision
The foods we put into our mouth can help us see better. Studies have shown that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, carotene, vitamins C and E and zinc can promote eye health. Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. And if fish is not your thing, consider these other sources of omega-3 fatty acids: flaxseed, basil, dried oregano and cloves. Green leafy veggies (spinach, kale, collards), corn, berries, nuts (sunflower seeds, almonds), eggs, green peas, broccoli, carrots and orange-colored fruit contain several important nutrients that can promote eye health and protect our vision.
Maintain a healthy weight
Most of us are aware that increased weight and obesity can elevate our risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and hypertension. However, many are unaware how these conditions can jeopardize our eye health, especially when they are poorly controlled. In addition, obesity, in and of itself, has been shown to increase the risk for cataracts; although the mechanism is unclear.
In addition to serving as an opportunity to accessorize, sunglasses can protect our eyes from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. As a result, they should be worn whenever outdoors and there is daylight; not just in the warm months (recall that even on overcast or snow days, sunburn from UV rays can still occur). Children, in particular, are vulnerable to the harmful effects of UV rays because their eyes are still developing. Parents should help their kids develop the habit of donning sunglasses early in life. Experts recommend using sunglasses that block 99% or 100% of UV-A and UV-B radiation.
Maintaining healthy vision is another reason, on a long list, why smoking is bad for our bodies. Studies have shown that smokers have an increased incidence of macular degeneration cataracts, and optic nerve damage. These are all conditions that can lead to blindness.
Manage chronic health conditions
Uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension can have devastating effects on our eyes. Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes can result in diabetic eye disease–a cluster of conditions that includes diabetic retinopathy (damage to blood vessels within the retina), cataracts (clouding of the eye lens) and glaucoma (increased fluid pressure within the eye). In addition to routine eye exams, optimizing blood sugar levels by eating healthy, remaining physically active and carefully monitoring and working with your healthcare provider can prevent vision loss. Uncontrolled hypertension can also be detrimental to our vision by damaging the eye’s tiny, delicate blood vessels that supply the retina or nerves.
Much of what we experience in our life is by the use of our eyes. Seeing an eye doctor routinely along with maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, eating wisely, managing chronic health conditions and wearing our shades can improve the likelihood of keeping our vision 20/20.
This information is for educational purposes and should not be considered specific medical advice. Always consult with a qualified medical professional regarding your individual circumstances.
Dr. Nina Radcliff is dedicated to her profession, her patients and her community, at large. She is passionate about sharing wise preventive health measures.