By Ernst Lamothe Jr.
Eye health is often overlooked until it’s too late. But your eyes are not something to take for granted at any time. Whether it is food, environmental or personal decisions, your vision can be incredibly affected by your day to day decisions.
“Your eyes are a crucial part of everyday life, regardless of your age,” said Sungjun Hwang, an ophthalmologist at the Eye Care Center in Canandaigua and a clinical assistant professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “With your eyes, you are able to see, to connect to other individuals, view your surroundings, complete work and much more. In fact, 80% of what you perceive around you comes through your sense of sight. No matter how old you are, your eye health is important.”
Regular visits will vary, depending on the patient’s age, family history and current health. A good idea is to see the doctor once every three years if you’re younger than 50 and once a year when you turn 50.
Hwang offers five tips for vision health.
1. Disregard the Myths
There are many misconceptions out there about vision. Even being told as a child that your vision can be improved by eating carrots. In reality, foods that are rich in vitamin A do help you maintain good eyesight, but they won’t improve your vision.
“We even hear the whole myth that sitting close to a computer screen or the TV can damage your eyes. That’s false,” said Hwang. “You’ll likely gain a headache or eye strain if you’re sitting too close, but you won’t have permanent damage. Every 20 minutes, you may want to rest your tired eyes by simply looking across the room. Use artificial tears or blink regularly to ensure your eyes stay well lubricated.”
Hwang said it is also a myth that reading in low light can be harmful to your eyes. Although it’s not critical to have good lighting, it will make it easier to see and it will keep your eyes from tiring out more quickly. He even added a fun one that dispels the myth that a blue-eyed child cannot be born from two brown-eyed parents.
“In fact, you’re unable to predict eye color from parents’ eye colors. It’s possible that as many as 16 genes could be responsible for eye color,” said Hwang.
2. Important to learn about diabetic retinopathy
Caused by diabetes, diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease that results in vision loss. Some loss of sight occurs when high blood sugar levels cause damage to blood vessels — swelling and leaking are two concerns.
“On occasion, blood vessels are closed off completely, which prevents blood from passing through. Controlling blood pressure and blood sugar are important. Options for treatment include medication, laser surgery and surgery to remove leaking blood vessels,” said Hwang.
3. Food or natural remedies for deterioration of eye health?
Important nutrients to help support healthy eyes include: vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc. Overall, it is best to focus on dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, egg yolks and fish such as tuna, salmon and halibut.
“These vitamins may help slow down the progression of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, a disease that results in vision loss in the macula, where the eye controls central vision,” he said.
4. What should people know about cataracts?
When your vision becomes hazy, blurry or less colorful, you may find you have a cataract. You might experience seeing double images, being extra sensitive to light and having trouble seeing well at night. Fortunately, an ophthalmologist can help you with cataract surgery if a new prescription isn’t helping you see well enough.
“In surgery, the doctor will remove your eye’s cloudy natural lens, which is the cataract, and replace it with an artificial lens, which is called an intraocular lens,” said Hwang, who performs cataract surgeries. “What’s terrific about this surgery is that most patients experience significant improvement in their vision and they are often surprised at how easy the process is to get through. As technology has evolved, we have more sophisticated ways to perform cataract surgery, which results in improved patient outcomes and satisfaction.”
5. Facts about eye health?
To keep your eyes healthy, there are many steps you can take. The first is to get a dilated eye exam. You could have a problem and not even know it because many eye diseases don’t have symptoms. It’s also important to take care of your overall health. Maintaining healthy eating habits, being active, knowing your family’s health history and quitting smoking all can contribute to good eye health.
“Another excellent step is to protect your eyes. You can do this by wearing sunglasses even during the winter and on cloudy days; wearing safety goggles while doing home repairs or playing sports and resting your eyes when using the computer for a long time,” said Hwang. “For those who wear contact lenses, it’s important to remember to wash your hands before you handle your contact lenses. Don’t forget to disinfect your contact lenses and get new ones regularly.”
He also recommends the 20-20-20 rule.
“Individuals should take a break every 20 minutes to look at something about 20 feet away for 20 seconds. It’s also important to keep your monitor bright, so there is less “computer flicker,” which can lead to eyestrain and headaches,” added Hwang.