One of the most important parts of life is your ability to see it - to see the beauty that surrounds you, to watch your favorite sport, to observe the people you love. To experience this enjoyment, proper eye care is imperative. While some eye conditions may cause permanent vision loss or decreased vision, many other conditions can be treated or prevented.
Many people take their eye health for granted without realizing that regular check ups are a vital component of wellness. Did you know that your eye doctor could gain insight into your overall health with a comprehensive eye exam? This is in addition to their ability to determine the health of your eyes and your vision ability (Note: Please be advised that while getting your eye health checked does give an indication of your overall body health, it does not substitute or replace a regular check up with your family physician).
The fact is many systemic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension (or high blood pressure), can seriously affect the health of your eyes. If you have one of these conditions, you should be getting your eyes checked on a regular basis. Also, if you're avoiding close work, having difficulty driving at night, rubbing your eyes frequently, or experiencing frequent headaches, you may be due for an eye exam - especially if you haven't been to an eye doctor in over a year.
As people age, they frequently experience increased visual dysfunction. Eye care practitioners can help many people see better than they thought possible and can provide information and explanation on what is happening to your eyes. One way to help protect your eyes is by wearing the proper protection. For example, if you're outside a lot (whether it's summer or winter), sunglasses with UV protection are a must. If you're playing sports, having the appropriate eyewear, such as polycarbonate lenses, can help lower your risk of eye injury.
For contact lens users, following the appropriate cleaning and wearing schedule will help keep your eyes from getting infected. This means abiding by the usage and wear recommendations of your eye doctor. For example, if you have 2-week disposable lenses, you should replace your lenses after a maximum of 14 days of wear.
Eye hygiene can also help keep your eyes healthy. You can prevent eye conditions like blepharitis by regularly cleaning your eyelids or by changing your eye makeup if it is causing eye irritation.
The American Optometric Association recommends an eye examination at 6 months of age, 3 years, before starting school, and every two years until the age of 18. Between the ages of 18 and 40, it is recommended that you visit your eye care professional every 2-3 years. For people 41-60 years old, eye exams should be conducted every two years, and adults 60 years of age and older should be seen annually.
Other factors that may indicate a comprehensive eye examination is necessary include being at risk for certain eye diseases (for example, having a family history of eye disease), having difficulty reading smaller type, doing a great deal of close work like reading, losing track of objects in your side vision, playing eye-hazardous sports like tennis or softball, and having trouble with eye-hand coordination.
The gift of sight is amazing. Take care of it in the present, so you can see clearly in the future.
---Janet Corbit-Drakulich is a Doctor of Optometry with her Master's of Education, Visual Function in Learning.