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Posted on Wed, Jul 27, 2005

Protect Your Sight

Protect Your Sight
Healthy vision is a precious gift that allows us to enjoy the beauty of nature, the smile of a loved one, and the many wonders in the world around us. Unfortunately for 14 million Americans, eye problems can interfere with daily activities and inhibit the enjoyment of life.  Health officials have identified the most significant and preventable threats to vision. According to the Department of Health and Human Service�s Healthy People 2010 report, visual impairment represents one of our country's 10 most frequent causes of disability. 
To help avoid or remedy vision problems, we have to strive to prevent eye injuries & emphasize early detection of eye disease. Everyone should take steps to make sure that eye health becomes a priority. Some of the things we can do include committing to receiving regular dilated eye examinations; wear protective eyewear when necessary, and make every effort to ensure children age 5 and under receive vision screening.
Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in American adults.  In addition to monitoring blood sugar and blood pressure levels, patients with diabetes must also take special care of their kidneys.  In all adults with insulin-dependent (Type I) diabetes and almost half of those with non-insulin-dependent (Type II, commonly called adult-onset) diabetes, the function of both the kidneys and the capillaries in the eye are inhibited. Increased blood pressure and changes in blood sugar levels carry most of the blame.  High blood pressure eventually thickens the blood vessel walls and slows blood flow, which leads to both vision loss and kidney failure.  As the kidneys stop filtering blood, blood sugar levels become even more volatile, causing further decreases in the elasticity of the eye lens.  Half of all diabetics that suffer kidney failure have also lost some or all of their vision.  If a diabetic with kidney failure receives a kidney transplant, the patient can usually maintain the existing level of vision prior to the transplant operation.  A diabetic on dialysis needs to strictly monitor blood pressure and blood sugar levels to guard against blurred vision or blindness.  Overall, for adults with diabetes, good care for the kidneys - by maintaining blood pressure levels, carefully watching blood sugar levels and increasing liquid intake - can also offer the best protection for long-term vision. 
Ways to increase your chances of having a lifetime of good vision include:
  • Schedule regular eye examinations, regardless of your age or health. Many eye problems can be prevented or reversed if detected early enough. At this visit, your eye care provider can thoroughly examine your eyes and discuss any recent changes in your vision. 
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes foods that are rich in antioxidants. 
  • Wear protective eyewear when playing sports or when doing any activity in which objects may be hurled toward your eye, such as mowing the lawn. 
  • Wear sunglasses that block out ultraviolet light when you are in the sun. 
  • If you are diabetic, take all your medications and follow your physician�s dietary advice. 
  • If you stare at a computer for long periods of time, take regular breaks to minimize fatigue. 
  • Discuss any family history of blindness with your eye care provider. Many eye diseases are hereditary and physicians can be on the alert for certain conditions if they know you are at greater risk of developing them. 
  • Do not smoke and avoid subjecting your eyes to second-hand smoke, exhaust fumes or other polluted air. 
If your job requires prolonged computer use, (more than one hour in duration each day), you should have a complete visual assessment even if you have no complaints or are presently wearing glasses. This is emphasized for the computer user who had bifocals or reading glasses prescribed prior to commencing prolonged use on computers. Remember, it is important to tell your optometrist that you work at a computer.  Computer eyestrain is real. "More PC users suffer vision woes than wrist injuries. Millions of Americans suffer from computer-related eye problems that generate $1.15 billion in medical costs each year. The American Optometric Association says that 12 million Americans visit eye doctors each year because of computer-related problems or one out of every five who come in for an eye examination." 
The symptoms of eyestrain can include: headaches, dry eyes, blurred or double vision, aching eyes, difficulty in changing focus from near to far, and/or having difficulty seeing when driving at night. Some common causes include: glare, inadequate static vision and poor dynamic vision. 
With the proper eye exam, the optometrist can prescribe special glasses with a different power from your regular glasses. These would be used only for working in front of your computer. If you wear contacts, you would wear these glasses on over your contacts! 
How old are your current frames? Does your vision appear as sharp as usual? How long has it been since your last eye exam? It may be time to see your optometrist. Save Your Vision Month, America's oldest and most-established observance in the cause of eye and vision care, has been expanded to a month-long event and reborn this year with a new slogan, 'Spring Starts in March. Don't miss it.' 
The Save Your Vision Month program focuses on reminding Americans of the role good eyesight plays in enjoying life, and the importance of regular eye exams. 
Be sure to get regular vision examinations. If you suspect that you might have eye problems, or you work at the computer more than an hour a day then the Prevent Blindness Organization is happy to send you literature about computer related eye problems. 

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