May is Healthy Vision Month

Good eyesight means different things to different people. It may mean you are able to see the trees budding in the spring or the first signs of the lush ferns “unfurling” with animation. Good eyesight may allow you to view a glorious orange-red sunset at night. It may give you the ability to read the newspaper on your E-reader or maneuver your way through street signs in a new city while on vacation. How we see and interpret those visions makes an important impact on our lives. Good sight is a sense that we all too often take for granted.

Whatever good eyesight means to you, it is being celebrated this month—May 2015—in a national observance to promote early detection and prevention to reduce vision impairment called Healthy Vision Month. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) along with the National Eye Institute is encouraging everyone, no matter what your age, to make eye health and vision a priority.

Approximately 4.2 million people in the U.S. aged 40 years and older had vision impairment in 2010 according to Prevent Blindness America. Vision impairment is the third most common condition among those of us aged 17 years and less, the ninth most common for those aged 50-64, and the seventh most common for people aged 65 and over.

What are the early signs of eye disease? Most of the common eye diseases have no early signs. This is why regular comprehensive dilated eye examinations are so important to detect and treat vision problems. These exams are recommended for all persons aged 65 and older, as well as younger persons with diabetes or risk factors such as family history of glaucoma. Early detection and timely treatment of conditions such as diabetic retinopathy have been found to be efficient and cost effective.

Vision disabilities are among the top ten disabilities for anyone aged 18 years and older. Vision loss affects people by causing social and economic consequences including suffering, disability, loss of productivity, and a diminished quality of life. Because some people don’t realize they could see better with glasses or contact lenses, they tend to delay treatment or even testing.

How do I take care of my eyes and preserve my sight? Have that comprehensive dilated eye exam. It is the only way to detect disease in its early stages. Know your family’s eye health history. Many eye diseases are hereditary. Eat right to protect your eyes—particularly dark leafy veggies such as kale and spinach, as well as omega-3 fatty acids found in tuna, salmon, and halibut.

Maintain a healthy weight to avoid health conditions such as diabetes which can lead to diabetic eye disease and glaucoma. Quit smoking or don’t start. This may lead to cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and optic nerve damage.

Wear sun-protective eyewear when you are going to be exposed to sunlight, and safety glasses or goggles for activities which may put your eyes at risk for damage. If protective eyewear is necessary for your work environment, your employer is required to provide this protection.

To avoid the risk of eye infections, wash your hands thoroughly before placing contact lenses or adjusting glasses. Make sure expired eye makeup such as mascara is replaced at minimum every three months, as it can cause infections such as pinkeye.

Most importantly, give your eyes a rest. Looking at a computer screen for extended periods of time causes your eyes to become fatigued. Blink often to refresh and rehydrate your eyes. Look away from any close work you may be doing regularly for at least 20 seconds approximately every 20 minutes. Your eyes are an important part of your health and with some simple preventive measures, you can maintain your eyesight will into your golden years.

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