Our eyes are the windows to our soul they say, so why do so many leave them to chance when preventative measures can be taken to protect them. We all know that having the best possible vision makes us more productive individuals. Today’s careers rely on computers and technology which potentially can cause a host of health problems if not careful. Eye-strain, headaches, and neck and back problems can all be helped with the proper visual correction. While It’s great to have new glasses, you can easily wear ten-year old frames held together with duct tape. Although you might not get too many dates, you certainly won’t go blind.
The real hidden danger in not getting regular eye exams is the risk of eye diseases. Many eye conditions have no symptoms until they reach advanced stages. While there are many problems I could list, the top conditions causing vision loss that could have been prevented with routine eye care are as follows:
Macular Degeneration-This disease damages your central vision, blurring anything in direct focus like words or faces. While your risk does increase with age, I have seen signs of macular degeneration start with people in their 40’s, especially smokers. Smoking doubles your risk of macular degeneration. There is no cure, but if detected early, you can take supplements and make lifestyle changes that can slow or halt vision loss. Once macular tissue is lost, however, it can’t be replaced.
Glaucoma-Glaucoma damages your optic nerves, usually by increased eye pressure. This causes loss of peripheral vision that can progressively close in to eventual blindness. Glaucoma can happen at any age, but your risk is greater if you are African-American, over 50, have diabetes, or have a family history. Glaucoma has no cure, but available are a wide variety of eye drops that can halt its progression. Similar to macular degeneration, once damage is done, it can’t be reversed.
Diabetes-Diabetes is a systemic disease that occurs when your body is not able to regulate blood sugar. Increased blood sugar is extremely hard on small blood vessel walls, mainly in your kidneys, eyes, and feet. Early retinopathy is fairly easy to treat with adjustment of medication, lifestyle changes, or in some instances, a LASER procedure. Advanced disease can lead to retinal detachments and blindness.
Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)-Amblyopia is a condition where one or both eyes don’t develop a good nerve pathway to the brain, resulting in decreased acuity (meaning the eye is not capable of seeing 20/20, even with glasses.) This is usually caused by a strong prescription or turned eye as a child. Eye turns are obvious to most parents, but high prescriptions sometimes don’t get noticed until a child starts school. If proper correction or treatment is not started before age 3, the chances of having a permanent lazy eye increase dramatically.
Corneal Ulcers-This problem is almost always associated with contact lens misuse. If you think you’re frugal by over wearing your contact lenses or not changing your solution every day, that’s a risky game to play. Old lenses that are not properly disinfected don’t allow enough oxygen to your eyes. This leads your eye to think it is smothering so it attacks the contact lens by producing white blood cells, which ulcerate your cornea. It is terribly painful, often resulting in an emergency room visit at 2 A.M because you think you are going to die from pain, literally. Ulcers often leave scars, making future contact lens wear more difficult or impossible. Yes, you can sometimes go years without problems from contact lens misuse, but when it catches up to you, you will be sorry.
There are many other reasons to have regular eye exams, but I’ve tried to discuss five conditions that I see almost weekly. All of these eye problems are dramatically worsened if left untreated. Aside from the ulcers, the other conditions don’t hurt and often have no symptoms in the early stages.
Take home points
All children should have a comprehensive eye exam before age three. In my home state of Kentucky, it is required that all children have an eye exam by a doctor before starting school. As a result of this program, it has been determined that 25% of children entering kindergarten have some sort of vision problem. Take care of your kids!
All contact lens wearers need annual exams to insure their corneal health. Eye doctors can determine if your eyes are getting enough oxygen. Believe me, you don’t want an ulcer!
The only way to find eye diseases is to have a dilated eye exam. In British Columbia and Alberta, you can get a prescription without a health exam. While this might seem quicker and less expensive, you are dismissing your eye health. No one likes to be dilated, but it’s a small price to pay for knowing your eyes are healthy.
I would love it if everyone would have an annual eye exam. It is really hard to tell someone that they have vision loss that could have been prevented. Realistically, if you are under 50, every two to three years is probably OK unless you smoke, are diabetic, or have a family history of eye disease. A few dollars spent for a comprehensive eye exam can save millions in your quality of life if you catch and treat problems early.
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Guest Post By: My name is Kim, and I am the blogger behind Eyes on the Dollar. While I hope someday to be a rock star blogger, my real job is as an Optometrist. Optometrists attend four years of undergraduate university plus four more years of professional school to achieve a doctorate degree. We treat all disorders of the eyes including vision problems, eye diseases and injuries, and eye complications that relate to chronic diseases. I’d like to thank Mr. CBB for giving me the opportunity to explain why taking care of your eyes is a good investment.
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