May is Healthy Vision Month. Make your eye health a priority and protect your vision for a lifetime. Your vision is important at every stage in your life, so start protecting it as early as you can. The following are how you can do that for every stage of life.
Babies – Between the ages of 8 months and 3 years old, babies should be evaluated for a rare eye tumor that can lead to serious complications, often malignancy. The most comprehensive method to evaluate this is with a dilated eye examination.
Toddlers – Children should be evaluated for eye teaming skills (both eyes are working together), and to determine if the child is seeing adequately at all distances, in particular at near, as most learning occurs at reading distances. This is the age to catch preventable eye turns and lazy eyes.
School-age – As children become more involved in outdoor sport activities, more prolonged reading, and exposure to electronic devices, they need to wear sunglasses to protect from ultraviolet damage and to develop good study habits of taking breaks after every 20 minutes of near work. Children need to spend 40 minutes minimum outdoors everyday to also decrease the likelihood of developing nearsightedness.
Adolescents – It’s important for parents to be aware of genetic eye diseases in their family which can develop in children at this age such as keratoconus, Stargardt disease, and retinitis pigmentosa. Many of these diseases can lead to blindness, however if diagnosed early enough, some may be treated or halted in its progression. I would recommend that photos of the retina be taken by this time as a baseline. Kids at this age also begin contact lens use and must understand the importance of healthy and hygienic habits to decrease the risk of contact lens-related infections. And if your child is nearsighted, ask his optometrist if the prescription is increasing at a rapid pace and about methods to slow it down.
College age – Students this age are pulling long nights, most are not taking care of their contact lenses and are sleeping in them. They must understand that infections are directly linked to hygienic habits and storage cases. And at the first sign of irritation, pain, or vision change, they must not wear their contacts and should be seen by an eye care provider. Daily disposable contact lenses are the best option for this age group. College and graduate students may also develop vision issues and should be evaluated when that occurs.
20s and 30s – Many of us are busy at this age beginning our careers and families. Our health takes a back seat to our busy lives, however, this is when we need to begin thinking about our health and vision. Eating green vegetables, fewer fried foods and high calorie foods will prepare us for a healthy lifestyle. If you haven’t already done so, have photos of your retina taken so that you have a baseline to compare to over the years.
40s – This is the dreaded age when reading becomes more difficult; it’s not a disease but a normal aging process. See your optometrist for a proper prescription so you don’t develop eye strain from using an incorrect power of drugstore reading glasses. Some patients may also show signs of early eye disease such as glaucoma or may be diagnosed with other health issues such as high blood pressure, cancer or diabetes. These can affect the eyes; annual eye examinations and dilated retinal evaluations are important to monitor for early disease. Fortunately, most health conditions at this age may be controlled with a healthy diet and exercise. Dry eyes may also begin to develop, especially among women and requires regular maintenance with an eye care provider.
50s-60s – If you’ve spent a lot of time outdoors as a child or adult without sunglasses, then you’re looking at early cataracts and possibly macular degeneration at this age. Cataracts can be removed with surgery and vision restored. Macular degeneration, however, cannot be cured and can lead to a large central blind spot. Again diet and exercise are important as well as treating any general bodily diseases. Eye vitamins may be helpful for some patients; continue protecting your eyes from ultraviolet rays outdoors. The retina also becomes more vulnerable to tears and detachments. Have your eyes dilated regularly to monitor for this condition.
70s and after – The most important point is to take care of your general health and continue eating leafy green vegetables. Take your medications as directed by your doctor. Your overall health contributes to your eye health. If your blood sugar is uncontrolled, your eyes and vision may become permanently damaged. If your blood pressure is too high, you may develop a stroke in your eye.
Protecting your vision is important at all ages. Wear glasses with an ultraviolet protective coating outdoors, eat a healthy and balanced diet of leafy green vegetables and see your optometrist regularly. Always call your eye doctor at the first sign of vision change or eye pain. Protect your vision for a lifetime.