The April 2018 issue of Wellness for Generations newsletter brings…tips on your vision, Spring Skin Specials, delicious recipes and fun activities for the whole family! The first article, in its entirety below, discusses eye health from cradle to rocker. Or read the entire issue here.
Eyes are More than Vision: How to Care for Your Eyes through the Years
After you reach the age of 18, you probably don’t get your eyes checked very often unless you require vision correction. But our eyes are an essential part of our lives, and vision is just one part of their health. Let’s take a peek at caring for your eyes from childhood through adulthood.
Vision and protection are at the forefront of eye health for children. We want to identify vision challenges early in our children, so their development is not hindered by looking at blurry objects. Your child’s pediatrician will also check your child’s eyes for:
- Cloudy eyes – A sign of either a cataract or other eye disorder.
- Amblyopia – Also known as lazy eye. This means reduced vision in an eye that has not developed regular sight. While some eyes are misaligned, it’s not always the case.
- Ptosis – A drooping upper eyelid that blocks the eye.
- Blocked tear ducts – Not uncommon in babies, and usually resolves within the first year. Causes watery eyes because the tears do not drain properly.
- Eye infections and pinkeye.
- Stye – A small red or white bump by the eyelid caused by an infected eyelash follicle.
In childhood, we also strive to protect the eyes. Watch out for sharp toys, chemicals, and sprays, keep children away from fireworks, and require them to wear protection during sports.
During the teen years, our concern for eye protection increases. More than 90 percent of all eye injuries can be prevented through the use of protective eyewear. Sports injuries most common, yet most sports leagues do not require eye protection. Other teen eye health issues are:
- Dry eye – Screen time increases for teens, who are using computers to complete homework, then spending time on their phones to chat with friends. Encourage your teen to blink more often when using screens and take a break from when possible.
- UV damage – About 75–80% of our UV exposure happens before we turn 18. Teens in sports or working outdoors should be especially careful, wearing sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection.
- Poor eating – Eye health is directly tied to your diet, and busy teens tend to neglect more balanced foods.
- Cosmetics/hairsprays – Teens who use makeup or hairspray should take care around their eyes. Apply hairspray before inserting contacts, but makeup should be applied after.
Adults under the age of 40 should continue to take care of their eyes by wearing sunglasses and eye protection for sports or during home activities such as chopping wood or spraying chemicals. Adults should get an eye exam every few years even they don’t require vision correction.
Eyestrain is becoming a more significant problem today due to long hours staring at a computer. If you have sore or tired eyes, itching/burning, sensitivity to light, dry or watery eyes, headaches, difficulty focusing, take steps to help your eyes. These include:
- Adjust your computer so the top of your computer monitor is a little eye level. Adjust the screen brightness. Wear anti-reflective lenses or adjust window blinds to reduce glare.
- Some overhead lights are too bright. If you can, turn them off or dim them and rely on some desk lamps.
- Rest your eyes every hour by spending several minutes away from the screen. Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
April is National Women’s Eye Health Month, and many eye problems are more likely to impact women, including glaucoma, cataracts, and Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). Furthermore, a woman’s changing hormones through her life can pose other eye problems. For example:
- Birth control can cause blood clots and strokes and can increase the chance for dry eye and cataracts.
- Pregnancy causes many hormonal changes, which can lead to dry eyes, light sensitivity, changes in vision, migraines, blurry vision, and even retinal detachment if her blood pressure rises.
- Menopause can also cause dry eye syndrome and eye inflammation.
- Breast cancer drugs can cause eye bleeds and itchiness and light sensitivity.
- Fertility drugs can cause spots in a woman’s vision.
After age 40, people start experiencing other eye problems. Most of us have heard about needing reading glasses beginning in our 40s, but you’re more likely to experience other eye problems as well. If you have the following health problems, you are at higher risk for eye conditions and diseases:
- Diabetes, high blood pressure, or other chronic conditions
- Any family history of glaucoma or macular degeneration.
- High cholesterol, thyroid, anxiety or depression, and arthritis for which you take medications. Many medications, even antihistamines, have vision side effects.
Watch for these warning signs of severe eye problems and contact your doctor if you experience these:
- Flashes or a sudden increase in floaters. You may have some floaters now; what you see is particles floating in your eye fluid. These aren’t usually a problem, but if you have a sudden increase in the number and see flashes, get to a doctor.
- Changes in vision. If your prescription or your vision is frequently changing, you may have hypertension or diabetes, both of which can lead to vision loss.
- Loss of peripheral vision. If you can’t see out of one side of your eye, you might have glaucoma. You won’t have any symptoms until the damage is already underway, so get to the doctor at the first sign.
- Seeing distorted images. If something looks distorted or wavy or you have an empty spot in the center of your vision, you might have age-related macular degeneration.
Ask your team at Generations Family Practice if you have any questions or concerns about your family’s eye health.