Friday, May 4, 2012

May Is Healthy Vision Month

Our vision is precious but it's often something that we take for granted until it doesn't work properly anymore. How well do you take care of your eyes?

Regular eye exams are a must, particularly if eye disease runs in your family. Initial eye visits should be done when children are young in order to detect any vision problems before they become a hindrance at school. Not being able to see the front of the class or computer screen can seriously hamper learning.

National Eye Institute, 
National Institutes of Health
Most doctors recommend annual eye checks for healthy children - it's best to check with your own healthcare provider to see what is best for your family. Don't wait until your child is ready for school - the American Optometric Association recommends that children have their first eye exam at age 6 months. Adults should ask their healthcare provider what time frame is right for them.

The eye exam:

The optometrist or ophthalmologist will look directly into the child's eye to see if there are any obvious abnormalities and may apply eye drops that will dilate the pupil (make it larger), so the back of the eye can be seen. As the children get older, they will be asked to take distance tests, to identify objects or letters on the eye chart, to see how well they can see things that are far away.

If the appointment is the first one with this particular doctor, he or she may do a colour-blind test. This involves the child looking at some pictures of mosaics and in the mosaics are some numbers that are a different colour. People who are colour blind will not be able to see the numbers. Another test that could be done are photos that have a 3-D look to them. The child is asked to try to pick up the object in the book.

Eye health

The regular eye exam, which continues into adulthood, is only one part of your eye health. To keep your eyes healthy, you have to take care of them, just as any other part of your body. This means protecting them when playing sports, doing any tasks where objects may break off or shoot into the air, wearing sunglasses and brimmed hats, and eating a healthy diet. By the way - even children should wear sunglasses. The sun's damage to the eyes is cumulative - it adds up. By wearing sunglasses in childhood, the sun doesn't get a chance to cause damage.

Eye disease

We all know people who are near-sighted (myopia) or far-sighted (presbyopia) - or both - but what does that mean? Near-sighted people can see things that are close up; far-sighted people can see things that are far away.


Cataracts are inevitable if we live long enough. A cataract is the clouding over of the eye's lens. If it is thick enough that it is causing vision loss, this can be corrected with surgery. Excessive sunlight exposure helps speed cataract formation.

Age-related macular degeneration

AMD is a common older age onset eye disease. There are two forms, dry and wet AMD. The center part of the eye, the macula, is destroyed and you lose your central vision first. If it does not stop, the vision loss moves outward to the edges. As our population ages, we are seeing more AMD.

National Eye Institute

Glaucoma is caused by pressure behind the eye and can lead to blindness. Currently, some eye drops can keep the pressure in check for some people, but it is essential to use the drops regularly as prescribed. As well, many medications cannot be used by people who have glaucoma, including over-the-counter medications. If you have glaucoma, always check with your pharmacist before taking any new medications - prescription or not.

There are many other ways your eyes can become damaged, but prevention is the key. You can find more information at the National Eye Institute, along with several documents on different eye issues.

Does eye disease run in your family? My mother has wet AMD, so I do worry about that from time to time. While you can't diagnose yourself, a good tool to use if you are concerned about AMD is the Amsler Grid. By looking at it, you will see if the lines look as straight as they should. Check out the to see how you can download a grid.

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