Women’s Eye Health and Safety Awareness week is celebrated in April, but it is essential for women to care for their vision throughout the year. Some people dislike seeking medical care for many different reasons. When it comes to changes in your vision, though, do yourself a favor and get to your eye doctor. Early intervention may allow you to avoid complications that can occur if you wait.
According to the Prevent Blindness America® organization, women should take the following precautions to lessen their risk of developing eye issues:
- Quit Smoking
- Take Nutritional Supplements
- Expectant mothers should be aware of possible vision changes during pregnancy.
- Women who have diabetes or gestational diabetes should visit their eye doctor
- Wear UV-blocking sunglasses and a brimmed hat outdoors
- Learn of any family history of eye disease
- Use cosmetics safely
- Use contact lenses safely
When the World Turns Blurry
One of the most consistent and predictable aging phenomena usually occurs in your 40s when you begin having difficulty focusing on close images, such as a book. You must either hold printed matter at arm's length, or if nearsighted, take off your glasses entirely to clearly see what you are reading. This phenomenon is termed presbyopia. The reason for the vision inconsistency is due to changes in the eye from normal aging. The lens of the eye becomes less pliable, and thus is unable to focus on close images. If you have always had normal vision, you may need a pair of reading glasses. They are inexpensive and available in most retail locations. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, your current prescription may need an adjustment. Other treatments include contact lenses and surgery. Talk to your eye doctor about the best options for you.
Catching Eye Problems Before They Start
Eye doctors screen for disorders that, when caught early, can avert major problems later on. The American Optometric Association recommends the following schedule for those of average risk and without symptoms:
- Age 18-60 years: every 2 years
- Age 61 years and older: every year
If you have eye problems or fall into a high-risk group for problems, you may need to be examined more frequently, 1-2 times per year. This is especially true if you have:
- Risk factors for glaucoma or other eye diseases
- Any other eye diseases that are inherited
- History of retinal detachment
- A serious eye injury in the past
- Persistent visual loss
- Diabetes, high blood pressure, or other chronic illness that may affect vision
Glaucoma screening should start right around age 40. Screening should start sooner if you have a family history of this condition or diabetes. Glaucoma increases pressure inside the eye and puts unhealthy pressure on the optic nerve. Moreover, there are several different types of the disorder. Left untreated, glaucoma can lead to blindness. It is important to keep up with regular screenings because most people do not know they have glaucoma until diagnosed during a comprehensive eye examination. Although pressure can be managed with medications and surgery, damage that has already occurred cannot be reversed. Glaucoma progression often can be halted with prompt medical treatment.
Women with diabetes are also at increased risk for diabetic retinopathy (DR). Diabetes causes blood vessels within the eye to leak. DR is a progressive disease and is a leading cause of preventable blindness in the United States. Getting regular check-ups to catch developing DR, along with proper glucose management, will help reduce your risk.
Cataracts—a clouding in the lens of the eye—usually come along about, or just after, the age of retirement, experts say. The first sign of a cataract is a clouding or lessening of vision. The condition may first make itself known as a glare at night or trouble with oncoming headlights while driving. Or, a light bulb may be seen as a display of stars. Because cataracts are slowly progressive, many people do not even know that they have been losing vision. Cataract surgery is usually an elective procedure done to improve visual sharpness. Surgeons remove the cloudy lens in the eye and replace it with a man-made lens.
There are ways to take care of your eyes before changes occur. One way to do that is to get into the habit of protecting them, whether you are at work or at play. You should always wear eye protection while playing sports, such as racquetball or squash. In addition, when skiing, protect your eyes from snow glare with shatterproof sunglasses or goggles with UV protection. Eye injuries also can occur when doing something simple like hammering nails. Unfortunately, many people do not think about wearing eye protection.
The 3 primary types of eye protection—safety glasses, safety goggles, and face shields—are sometimes worn in combination. For any activity that involves chipping, grinding, riveting, sanding, hammering, or masonry, safety goggles should always be worn. Experts also say that handling chemicals, including those used on lawns, requires goggles. The best goggles are those where the sides touch the skin all around, as particles or chemicals can still fly up under glasses that are open on the sides. A face shield is often required if there are large flying objects or lots of debris.
The Three Os of Optical Practitioners: Which type of vision care practitioner should you see?
Ophthalmologists are physicians who specialize in the medical and surgical treatment of eye disorders. Ophthalmologists attend medical school, followed by a one-year internship and at least three years of an ophthalmology residency program. They check eyes for vision problems, diseases, and abnormalities. They perform eye surgery, prescribe medication, and usually write prescriptions for glasses and contact lenses.
Optometrists are not medical doctors, but hold a Doctor of Optometry degree. They perform examinations for glasses and contacts. They also diagnose and treat some eye disorders.
Opticians have less training than ophthalmologists or optometrists and cannot write prescriptions. They fit, supply, and adjust glasses, using a prescription from an ophthalmologist or an optometrist.
If you currently have eye symptoms, you should call your provider immediately for an evaluation. If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away. Dr. Richard Johnson is available for eye exams, and to answer questions you have on eye safety. To schedule an appointment, call the office at (540) 772-3480 or schedule an appointment online.Book An Appointment Online with Dr. Richard Johnson