August is National Eye Exam Month, so what better time to remind ourselves of the importance of vision care? If you haven’t had an eye exam recently, now would be a great time to make an appointment with an eye care professional – either an ophthalmologist or an optometrist. Routine check-ups are vital in preventing eye disease and detecting visual impairment. During an eye exam, the doctor performs a series of tests to check for problems such as cataracts and glaucoma, as well as to assess whether there is a need for glasses or contacts. With two-thirds of Americans needing vision correction and a number of eye diseases that exhibit no symptoms, it is crucial to have your eyes examined periodically.
How often should I have my eyes checked?
Infants and toddlers should have their eyes checked by a pediatrician during routine medical appointments. Ages 3 through 19 should have eyes screened every one to two years. Eye exams are then recommended at least once during the 20s and twice during the 30s. As you get older, it is advised to have a baseline exam at age 40 and then have exams every two to four years through age 64. Seniors age 65 and older should have a complete eye exam every one to two years. More frequent exams may be necessary for people with a higher risk for eye disease including anyone with a family history of eye disease, African Americans over the age of 40, diabetes patients, and anyone with a personal history of eye injury.
How can I prevent eye disease and injury?
Don those shades. The ultraviolet rays of the sun may contribute to the formation of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. When outdoors, wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun’s damaging rays. Look for sunglasses that block at least 98 percent of both UVB and UVA rays. (UVC rays are absorbed in the atmosphere and do not reach the earth.) Contact lenses with UV protection guard the cornea of the eye from the sun’s rays, but sunglasses are still needed to protect the surrounding eye tissue. And while you wouldn’t ordinarily forget your sunglasses on a hot sunny day at the beach, remember they just as important in the winter. Even though the sun’s rays do not feel as intense in the colder months, they are still strong enough to cause eye damage. In addition, snow can reflect up to 80 percent of harmful UV rays.
Wear goggles. Over one million people are afflicted with preventable eye injuries each year. Wearing properly fitted protective eye-wear (look for the “ANSI Z87.1” safety standard rating on the frame or lens) protects eyes from flying fragments, dust particles, sparks, fumes, chemical splashes, and ultraviolet and infrared radiation encountered at work or at home. Eye protection is important when doing things such as mowing the lawn, using power tools, performing car repairs, and playing certain sports, such as racquetball.
Eat healthy. Eat a well-balanced diet being sure to get the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A, which is essential to eye health. Vitamin A is found in foods such as carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, and turnip greens.
Sometimes we take for granted seeing the beauty of a sunrise, a bee pollinating a flower, or the smile of a child. But these things would be sorely missed if vision was impaired or lost. So remember, taking good care of your eyes and getting periodic eye exams not only is advantageous for your eye health, it adds immeasurably to your life.