EASTERN NIAGARA HEALTHLINES: Healthy vision for life | Lifestyles

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The month of July has been designated National Healthy Vision Month and it’s a good time to remember that keeping your eyes healthy and safe from harm is important every day of the year. Everyone wants a lifetime of good vision. If your eyes feel healthy, that’s great. But, don’t always assume your eyes are healthy. Many eye diseases do not have symptoms or warning signs that are readily apparent.

Be sure to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam each year from an ophthalmologist. It’s simple and painless. A dilated eye exam is the only way to check for eye diseases in the earliest stages, when they’re easier to treat and before vision loss take place. Remember, eye exams are important at any age, but those at greater risk include individuals over age 60, African Americans over age 40, those with diabetes or hypertension, individuals who are overweight, and those with a family history of glaucoma and other eye diseases.

A dilated eye exam includes:

A visual acuity test to check how clearly you see close and far away;

A visual field test to check your peripheral (side) vision, viewing objects to the sides without having to move the eyes;

An eye muscle function test, checking muscles around your eyeballs;

A pupil response test to check how well light enters your eyes and your pupils react accordingly;

A tonometry test to measure pressure in the eyes; and

Dilation of the pupils with drops to check for problems with the inner parts of your eye.

Dilating the pupil allows more light into the eye to check for problems such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.

Dilated exams are not painful, but they often cause blurry vision and light sensitivity for a few hours after the exam.

Sometimes doctors may discover refractive errors in a patient’s eye(s), requiring prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses to help the patient see more clearly. Refractive errors occur when the shape of the eye keeps light from focusing correctly on the retina.

Nearsightedness (myopia) causes objects at a distance to be blurry.

Farsightedness (hyperopia) causes closer objects to appear blurry.

Astigmatism makes distant and close objects look blurry or distorted.

Presbyopia makes it hard for middle-aged and older adults to see things up close.

These are the most common types of vision problems. More than 150 million Americans have a refractive error. Unfortunately, many people don’t even realize they have a problem and know that they could be seeing better. That’s why regular eye exams are so important.

Other symptoms associated with blurred vision include: double vision; hazy vision; seeing a glare or halo around bright lights; squinting; headaches; eye strain (when your eyes feel tired or sore); and difficulty focusing when reading or looking at a computer.

If you already wear glasses or contact lenses, sometimes prescriptions need to be altered. You still need to have your eyes checked regularly. Be sure to talk to your ophthalmologist if you are experiencing any changes or issues with your vision.

In addition to eyeglasses and contacts, some types of surgery, like laser eye surgery, can change the shape of your cornea to fix refractive errors. An ophthalmologist can help you decide if surgery is an option for you.

Protecting your overall health can go a long way toward keeping your eyes healthy. Make healthy choices and take care of yourself. Strive to eat well and stay active. Be sure to have plenty of dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale. Eating fish and foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, tuna and halibut, are also good for the eyes.

Furthermore, staying physically active helps lower risks for conditions that affect eye health, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. If you smoke, quit. Smoking isn’t just bad for the lungs; it’s harmful to eyes and increasing your risk for diseases like macular degeneration, cataracts and damage to the optic nerve.

Finally, take precautions to protect your eyes from hazards. Wear protective eyewear when needed. Safety glasses and goggles are designed to protect your eyes during certain sporting activities, construction work, etc. Additionally, try to give your eyes a rest if you spend long periods of time looking at a computer. Take a break every 20 minutes to look at something about 20 feet away for 20 seconds. If you wear contacts, always prevent eye infections by washing your hands before you put your lenses in or take them out. Disinfect your contact lenses and replace them regularly. Last but not least, wear sunglasses. Protect your eyes from the sun by wearing sunglasses that block 99% to 100% of both UVA and UVB radiation.

You only have one pair of eyes. Keep them healthy for a lifetime!

Dr. Charles Fetterman is an ophthalmologist with an office at 70 Professional Parkway, Lockport. Eastern Niagara Healthlines is a special feature by the Eastern Niagara Health System.

Dr. Charles Fetterman is an ophthalmologist with an office at 70 Professional Parkway, Lockport. Eastern Niagara Healthlines is a special feature by the Eastern Niagara Health System.