If you talk to eye care experts, they will advise you to ideally get an eye exam every one to two years. Patients who have a higher risk of eye diseases should go in on a more frequent basis. These patients include adults over 55 years old, diabetics, those with previous eye surgeries or injuries, and those with poor vision.
Let’s be honest, we all spend way too much time staring at a screen. It’s not really our fault though. We’re surrounded by those glowy rectangles and our jobs require hours of screen time every day. How much time do you spend staring at a screen? Recent research shows that almost 70% of US adults spend seven hours looking at a screen. That’s how much time we spend sleeping!
Blue Light—Invisible But Dangerous
One of the foods most commonly associated with eye health is carrots. Known for its ability to protect your eyesight, carrots have a myriad of other health benefits as well. If you are looking for the best foods for eye health, carrots certainly aren’t your only option.
Vitamins C and E along with zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and other nutrients all play a fundamental role in keeping your eyes healthy and your eyesight sharp even as you age. As you may imagine, there are plenty of different foods built around these vital nutrients. Here are just a few you may want to check out:
The eye is made to have a constant flow of tears that keeps it lubricated. This constant flow of moisture washes away infection-causing germs and actually preserves your sight. It’s not just about the way the eye feels, which can be pretty bad if you experience dry eye.
When there is an imbalance of moisture around the eyes, your eyes cannot necessarily get the special proteins they need. It is common for dry eye sufferers to experience:
“He’s a smart kid, but he’s just not doing well in school!”
I can hear the frustration in the parent’s voice. Often the child is doing their best, but they are waging an uphill battle. Your child may be fighting against undiscovered vision problems. Few children will complain because they have nothing to compare it to. They just know that no one understands how hard it is and that mom, dad, and their teacher are not happy.
Facebook may have saved this little girl’s sight! This photo was posted to Facebook by her mother, Tara Taylor. It shows the smiling three-year-old, Rylee Taylor. Immediately, friends and family knew something wasn’t right. They suggested that she get the little girl into an eye doctor due to her white left pupil. An eye exam revealed that Rylee had a rare eye disease called Coat’s Disease, which can lead to blindness. The mother had no idea her little girl was going blind in that eye.
As eye doctors, we are very concerned with children’s vision for many reasons. Here are some of our concerns.
- Children often don’t complain about vision problems because they have nothing to compare it to. If their vision is blurry, they figure that everyone sees like that.
- A child’s brain is so adaptable that it will often compensate for a serious vision problem. If one eye is blurry, the brain will shut off the blurry eye and favor the good eye. Imagine never using your left arm. Eventually it becomes weak and useless. The visual system is no different.
- A child could be blind or going blind in one eye and the parents would not even notice it. The child can still spot an airplane off in the distant sky, but may only be using one eye.
- The refractive error or prescription of a child can change rapidly from year to year. One year they can see just fine at school and the next year their grades begin to drop. The parent determines that the child just isn’t paying attention or applying himself. But in reality, he’s doing the best he can with his increasingly blurry vision.
- The inside of the eye lacks pain-sensing nerves. This concern applies to adults also. The outside of the eye is the most sensitive part of the body. It can sense a speck of dust on the surface. But you can have your retina pull away from the back of the eye, known as a retinal detachment, and have no pain. You can lose your side vision from glaucoma and have no idea until it’s too late and irreversible damage has been done.
The first twenty in the term “20/20” is how many feet you are from the eye chart. In most eye doctor offices that eye chart is 20 feet away from you. The second twenty is the size of the lettering. So 20/20 means that the average (see, there’s that word again) person should be able to see a 20-size letter from 20 feet away. What if you have horrible vision – 20/200? That means that the letter your able to barely make out sitting in the exam chair has to be 10 times (200 is 10 times larger than the 20-size letter) larger for you to tell what letter it is (see figure 1).
More than 30 million people wear contact lenses. Many of those wearers purchase their lenses through low-cost outlets, like online retailers (i.e. 1-800 Contacts) or discount brick and mortar clubs (i.e. Costco). However, a recent study indicates that bargain shopping may effect your eye health.
The medical journal Optometry: Journal of the American Optometric Association (JAOA) reports “The findings indicated that online and store purchasers . . . are less likely to adhere to healthy eye care practices, as recommended by their eye doctors.” “Those who bought contact lenses at their doctor’s office followed a number of FDA recommendations more so than those who bought contact lenses elsewhere.”
Other interesting findings were:
- 86 percent of individuals who purchased their lenses from an eye doctor received a yearly comprehensive eye exam. But, only 76.5 percent of those individuals who purchased their lenses via the Internet saw an eye doctor on a routine basis.
- 35 percent of online purchasers did not check that the prescription was correct.
- Fifty-seven percent of individuals who purchased their lenses from an eye doctor went in for a follow-up appointment; as compared to only 29 percent of online purchasers.
- The majority of consumers feel more confident purchasing their contact lenses from a familiar and reliable place such as their eye doctor or store rather than through the Internet.
- 89 percent and 91 percent of respondents respectively said they felt confident purchasing contact lenses from their familiar, reliable eye doctor or store. That number decreased to 77 percent when surveying individuals who made a purchase via the Internet.
“Although buying contacts online can be more cost-effective and convenient, we strongly urge patients to understand that there are risks involved to wearing contact lenses,” said Dr. Sclafani, one of the researchers. “Because of this, it’s necessary that patients visit their eye doctor on a regular basis and communicate any recent visual changes and discomfort experienced as a result of contact lens wear.”
Within the past 20 years there has been a surge of research into women’s health issues. This movement was spurred by studies showing that women suffer from significantly more illnesses than men. Relating to the eye, women comprise more than two-thirds of the nation’s cases of blindness or visual impairment! Why does sickness favor women? Many doctors and researchers blame it on hormones. This is especially suspected with eye diseases. However, science still is uncertain how or why hormones influence women’s health.
It is well known that women suffer from dry eye problems much more than men. A very common cause of dry eye is inflammation in the eye tissues, and who do you think suffer more with inflammatory diseases? You guessed it, women. Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, polymyalgia, and thyroid dysfunction are just a few diseases that cause inflammation in the body and result in eye dryness. Are hormones and inflammatory diseases related? The fact that the risk of dry eye (an inflammatory disease) skyrockets at post-menopausal age (marked by extreme hormone level changes in the body) makes me wonder.
Determining for sure if women have more eye illnesses is a difficult task for one main reason, women are more likely to seek medical attention. So do more women get cataract surgery because they are more prone to cataract formation or just because they go to the doctor more often? In my experience, men hold off as long as possible to seek professional help. Similar to not asking for directions until they are lovingly (or not) encouraged by their female counterpart.
Visit a wonderful website created by the Women’s Eye Health Task Force for more information.
EDIT (added March 26, 2008): Health News Digest has a very good article with statistics.