Taking care of your vision

February 23, 2012

Eyes, Health, Vision

Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the United States. It is a condition causing increased pressure in the eye, which damages the optic nerve.

by Dr. Ann Lovick — 

Our vision changes throughout our lives. Some changes are a normal process of aging, while others can be indicators of serious health problems. It is important to know the signs and symptoms of eye problems that will require you to seek immediate medical attention. Perhaps you have heard of glaucoma or cataracts, but do you know how to recognize the signs?

Most people only get a regular eye exam if they wear contacts or glasses. But our eyesight is so important that we really cannot afford to ignore it. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, all adults should get a baseline eye exam at age 40. This exam may detect eye diseases early, which will increase the likelihood of successful corrective treatment.

The two conditions most associated with the aging eye are cataracts and macular degeneration (AMD). Everyone will be at risk for cataracts if they live long enough. By age 75, 70 percent of us will have developed cataracts. Smoking, diabetes, excessive sunlight exposure and prolonged steroid use increase an individual’s risk factor for cataracts. The classic symptoms for cataracts are: painless, cloudy, blurry vision; difficulty seeing at night; colors seeming faded or yellowed; and seeing haloes around lights.

Macular degeneration refers to the degeneration of an area in the back of the eye known as the macula. When this area of the retina starts to break down, people will have trouble reading, driving and seeing fine detail. Schedule an appointment with your eye doctor if you notice the following symptoms: a dark or empty area in the middle of your visual field and straight lines appearing crooked. Risk factors for AMD include high blood pressure, obesity, smoking and a family history of AMD.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the United States. It is a condition causing increased pressure in the eye, which damages the optic nerve. Similar to AMD, symptoms of glaucoma include: blank spots in your visual field, rainbow-colored haloes around lights, blurry vision and pain.

If you experience any of the symptoms of cataracts, macular degeneration or glaucoma, contact your eye doctor immediately.

Diabetic retinopathy will increase your risk of cataracts or glaucoma. It is a condition where the small blood vessels in the eyes become damaged by the high levels of sugar in the blood. The macula can thicken or become swollen; additionally, the small blood vessels around the macula can shut down, preventing that area of the eye from receiving blood. Both of these changes can cause central vision loss similar to macular degeneration.

Clearly, diabetes is a risk factor for developing diabetic retinopathy, as are high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Also, this is a disease that tends to strike the ethnic populations (those at higher risk for diabetes), such as African Americans and Native Americans. If you have type 1 diabetes, you should schedule an eye exam within five years of being diagnosed and if you have type 2 diabetes, have your eyes examined at the time of diagnosis.

Treatments for each of these conditions vary from medication to surgery, but prevention is always the key. To keep your eyes healthy: get regular eye exams, exercise, get good quality sleep every night, do not smoke, limit time spent in front of the computer screen, wear quality sunglasses with UV protection and eat foods high in antioxidants.

I cannot imagine what it would be like to lose my vision, but I feel certain I would not like it. And at age 42, it is time for me to schedule my baseline eye exam. I hope you will take care of your eyes, too. For more information on eye care, visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s website at www.geteyesmart.org.

 

Ann Lovick, N.M.D, is in practice at Integrative Health in Scottsdale, Ariz., along with Drs. Alan Christianson and Phil Wazny. 480-657-0003 or www.integrativehealthcare.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 30, Number 4, Aug/Sept 2011.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Web Analytics