Incorporate your eye health as part of your regular health check-ups. Having a comprehensive eye exam is one of the best things you can do to make sure that you’re seeing the best you can and that you’re keeping your eyes healthy.
Millions of people have problems with their vision every year. Some of these problems can cause permanent vision loss and even blindness, while others are common problems that can be easily corrected with glasses or contact lenses.
A dilated eye exam is the only way to detect many common eye diseases such as glaucoma, diabetic eye disease and age-related macular degeneration in their early stages.
It’s important to know if anyone has been diagnosed with a disease or condition since many are hereditary. This will help to determine if you are at higher risk for developing an eye disease or condition.
Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, particularly dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, or collard greens is important for keeping your eyes healthy, too. Research has also shown there are eye health benefits from eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut.
Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing diabetes and other systemic conditions, which can lead to vision loss, such as diabetic eye disease or glaucoma. If you are having trouble maintaining a healthy weight, talk to your doctor.
Protective eyewear includes safety glasses and goggles, safety shields, and eye guards specially designed to provide the correct protection for a certain activity.
Smoking is as bad for your eyes as it is for the rest of your body. Research has linked smoking to an increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, cataract, and optic nerve damage, all of which can lead to blindness.
Sunglasses are a great fashion accessory, but their most important job is to protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. When purchasing sunglasses, look for ones that block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation.
If you spend a lot of time at the computer or focusing on any one thing, you sometimes forget to blink and your eyes can get fatigued. Try the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds. This can help reduce eyestrain.
To avoid the risk of infection, always wash your hands thoroughly before putting in or taking out your contact lenses. Make sure to disinfect contact lenses as instructed and replace them as appropriate.
Employers are required to provide a safe work environment. When protective eyewear is required as a part of your job, make a habit of wearing the appropriate type at all times and encourage your coworkers to do the same.
A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision. Most cataracts are related to aging. Cataracts are very common in older people. By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery.
The lens lies behind the iris and the pupil. It works much like a camera lens. It focuses light onto the retina at the back of the eye, where an image is recorded. The lens also adjusts the eye's focus, letting us see things clearly both up close and far away. The lens is made of mostly water and protein. The protein is arranged in a precise way that keeps the lens clear and lets light pass through it.
But as we age, some of the protein may clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens. This is a cataract. Over time, the cataract may grow larger and cloud more of the lens, making it harder to see.
Researchers suspect that there are several causes of cataract, such as smoking and diabetes. Or, it may be that the protein in the lens just changes from the wear and tear it takes over the years.
Age-related cataracts can affect your vision in two ways:
The term “age-related” is a little misleading. You don't have to be a senior citizen to get this type of cataract. In fact, people can have an age-related cataract in their 40s and 50s. But during middle age, most cataracts are small and do not affect vision. It is after age 60 that most cataracts cause problems with a person's vision.
The most common symptoms of a cataract are:
These symptoms also can be a sign of other eye problems. If you have any of these symptoms, check with your eye care professional.
Yes. Although most cataracts are related to aging, there are other types of cataract:
Cataract is detected through a comprehensive eye exam that includes:
Your eye care professional also may do other tests to learn more about the structure and health of your eye.
The symptoms of early cataract may be improved with new eyeglasses, brighter lighting, anti-glare sunglasses, or magnifying lenses. If these measures do not help, surgery is the only effective treatment. Surgery involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial lens.
A cataract needs to be removed only when vision loss interferes with your everyday activities, such as driving, reading, or watching TV. You and your eye care professional can make this decision together. Once you understand the benefits and risks of surgery, you can make an informed decision about whether cataract surgery is right for you. In most cases, delaying cataract surgery will not cause long-term damage to your eye or make the surgery more difficult. You do not have to rush into surgery.
Sometimes a cataract should be removed even if it does not cause problems with your vision. For example, a cataract should be removed if it prevents examination or treatment of another eye problem, such as age-related macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy.
If you choose surgery, your eye care professional may refer you to a specialist to remove the cataract.
If you have cataracts in both eyes that require surgery, the surgery will be performed on each eye at separate times, usually four weeks apart.
Cataract removal is one of the most common operations performed in the United States. It also is one of the safest and most effective types of surgery. In about 90 percent of cases, people who have cataract surgery have better vision afterward.
As with any surgery, cataract surgery poses risks, such as infection and bleeding. Before cataract surgery, your doctor may ask you to temporarily stop taking certain medications that increase the risk of bleeding during surgery. After surgery, you must keep your eye clean, wash your hands before touching your eye, and use the prescribed medications to help minimize the risk of infection. Serious infection can result in loss of vision.
Cataract surgery slightly increases your risk of retinal detachment. Other eye disorders, such as high myopia (nearsightedness), can further increase your risk of retinal detachment after cataract surgery. One sign of a retinal detachment is a sudden increase in flashes or floaters. Floaters are little “cobwebs” or specks that seem to float about in your field of vision. If you notice a sudden increase in floaters or flashes, see an eye care professional immediately. A retinal detachment is a medical emergency. If necessary, go to an emergency service or hospital. Your eye must be examined by an eye surgeon as soon as possible. A retinal detachment causes no pain. Early treatment for retinal detachment often can prevent permanent loss of vision. The sooner you get treatment, the more likely you will regain good vision. Even if you are treated promptly, some vision may be lost.
Talk to your eye care professional about these risks. Make sure cataract surgery is right for you.
Many people who need cataract surgery also have other eye conditions, such as age-related macular degeneration or glaucoma. If you have other eye conditions in addition to cataract, talk with your doctor. Learn about the risks, benefits, alternatives, and expected results of cataract surgery.
If you have lost some vision, speak with your surgeon about options that may help you make the most of your remaining vision.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases in which the normal fluid pressure inside the eyes slowly rises, leading to vision loss or even blindness. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of the disease.
Clear fluid flows in and out of small space at the front of the eye called the anterior chamber. This fluid bathes and nourishes nearby tissues. If this fluid drains too slowly, pressure builds up and damages the optic nerve. Though this buildup may lead to an increase in eye pressure, the effect of pressure on the optic nerve differs from person to person. Some people may get optic nerve damage at low pressure levels while others tolerate higher pressure levels.
Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in the United States. Although anyone can get glaucoma, the following people are at higher risk:
At first, there are no symptoms. Vision stays normal, and there is no pain.
However, as the disease progresses, a person with glaucoma may notice his or her side vision gradually failing. That is, objects in front may still be seen clearly, but objects to the side may be missed. As the disease worsens, the field of vision narrows and blindness results.
Many people may know of the “air puff” test or other tests used to measure eye pressure in an eye examination. But this test alone cannot detect glaucoma. Glaucoma is found most often during an eye examination through dilated pupils. Dilating pupils involves putting drops into the eyes during the exam to enlarge the pupils. This procedure allows the eye care professional to see more of the inside of the eye to check for signs of glaucoma.
Although open-angle glaucoma cannot be cured, it can usually be controlled. The most common treatments are as follows:
For most people with glaucoma, regular use of medications will control the increased fluid pressure. But these drugs may stop working over time, or they may cause side effects. If a problem occurs, the eye care professional may select other drugs, change the dose, or suggest other ways to deal with the problem.
Laser surgery: During laser surgery, a strong beam of light is focused on the part of the anterior chamber where the fluid leaves the eye. This surgery results in a series of small changes that make it easier for fluid to exit the eye. Over time, the effect of laser surgery may wear off. Patients who have this form of surgery may need to keep taking glaucoma drugs.
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