Story by: Michael D. Pattison, USAPHC
Most people know how important eyes are for quality of life. Even so, it is estimated that millions of people in the U.S. have undetected vision problems, eye diseases and conditions that affect their ability to see clearly and effectively or can result in future permanent damage to the eyes.
May has been designated by the National Eye Institute to be Healthy Vision Month to help educate people and to promote the early diagnosis and treatment of visual and ocular conditions.
So, what are the keys?
Getting a comprehensive dilated eye exam is probably one of the best things someone can do to maintain healthy vision. More than just checking eyeglasses, during this procedure, an eye care professional examines the eyes more thoroughly to look for common vision problems and eye diseases, many of which have no signs or symptoms until the condition has progressed. This comprehensive examination enables someone to detect eye conditions and diseases early and can often prevent any subsequent loss of vision.
The question of how often a person should have a comprehensive eye exam can be determined between that person and his or her eye doctor, and it depends on age, overall health and Family history. As a person grows older, he or she should have exams more frequently and some medical conditions, like diabetes, make annual exams a must.
And most people have heard about eating carrots and living healthy. This is true for the eyes as well. Eating a diet with fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens like spinach, are important for eye health, too. Recent research shows the benefit for the eyes from eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon and tuna.
Additionally, maintaining a healthy weight helps prevent someone from developing high blood pressure and diabetes, which also can affect the eyes and lead to blindness. In short, eating right will always help to protect sight.
Research also has linked smoking with the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and optic nerve damage. So, if a person smokes, he or she should quit. And if they do not smoke, never start.
Also, remember to give eyes a break. Almost everyone works with a computer, which can cause the eyes to dry out and become fatigued. So, remember to rest eyes every so often. To help remember, try the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes or so, look up and away from the computer at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This can help reduce the effects of eyestrain.
So, while May is designated Healthy Vision Month, it is simply a month to help remember things that should be done year round. Remember, eyes are a precious gift, and a person only has two of them.