About Preventative Eye Care

 

As the saying goes: "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". This is so very true, especially when it comes to diseases of the eye. We recommend the following as a start to a good preventive eye care program. This is not an exhaustive list, but will put you on the road to maintaining healthy eyes:

KNOWLEDGE

Knowledge is central to a good preventive strategy. We encourage you and your family to take advantage of the information and links on this site for further information about a variety of eye problems.

EAT HEALTHY AND KEEP WELL HYDRATED

A healthy diet rich in fruits and green, leafy vegetables rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, carotenoids, Omega-3 and antioxidants are excellent in promoting healthy eyes and helping to prevent diseases like macular degeneration and glaucoma. Examples of these foods are oranges, peaches, kale, collard greens, flax seed and fish. Good hydration is important for the functioning of all the cells in your body, including those in your eyes.

QUIT SMOKING

If you are a smoker, especially if you have a family history of macular degeneration, you should give up smoking. Smoking is bad news for your entire body. Eyes are very delicate and sophisticated organs in our bodies, and can suffer a lot of damage from oxygen deprivation, artherosclerosis and toxins resulting from smoking. Smoking is especially bad when you are recovering from surgery of any kind.  Smoking delays healing and causes scarring.  Be kind to your body and quit smoking before your body starts suffering the many consequences.

EXERCISE REGULARLY AND KEEP AN IDEAL BODY WEIGHT

Exercise is good for your entire body including your eyes. A healthy global metabolic rate will help deliver oxygen and nutrients to your body and get rid of undesirable waste products. Exercise also decreases eye pressure and this is helpful in patients suffering from glaucoma. Weight loss is a very important part of controlling diabetes, high blood pressure and other potentially sight-threatening diseases. A well-controlled diabetic will have less likelihood of developing diabetic eye disease. By the same token, people with well-controlled high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other medical problems that can affect the eyes, will be less likely to have eye problems from these diseases.

REGULAR ROUTINE CHECK-UPS

Many eye problems are silent and can only be detected by a qualified eye specialist. For this reason, everyone should have regular eye check-ups, especially if you have any eye diseases that run in the family. Often, if things are picked up early, eye damage and permanent loss of vision can be treated and prevented from getting worse. You should have a routine eye exam with your Optometrist every 2 years or more frequently if you have a family history of eye disease. Your Optometrist will refer you to an Ophthalmologist as appropriate depending on any problems that are picked up on your routine eye exams.

MAINTAIN GOOD GENERAL HEALTH

It is very important to be connected with a family doctor and have routine physicals to ensure that any underlying high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and other general medical conditions are being treated. These diseases can affect your entire body including your eyes and often have few symptoms before they cause damage. Do not let your first indication that you have high blood pressure be a stroke in the eye and permanent vision loss. Make sure you see your doctor regularly and are taking your regular medications as prescribed.

WEAR EYE PROTECTION

It is extremely important to wear safety goggles when using any heavy equipment, grinding metal, welding, doing yard work or even during leisure activities like fishing. Eye injuries happen randomly and quickly, and can easily be avoided with appropriate eye protection. If you are working or playing out in the sun, especially around water or snow, the glare can be very hard on your eyes. It is important to use UV protection; polarized lenses help reduce glare from snow and water considerably. If you have one bad eye, it is especially important to protect your good eye. Wear glasses or some form of eye protection at all times when outside the home, and make sure you do not try and wander around in the dark if you get up in the middle of the night. Devastating eye injuries have occurred, which could have been prevented simply by turning the lights on.

PROPER CONTACT LENS USE

Contact lenses are great for many reasons. They often provide better vision than glasses, and freedom from wearing glasses. However, wearing contact lenses can increase risk of corneal infection. The cornea is the front part of the eye that is like a window. It is clear and does not have any blood vessels in it. The cells in the cornea get some oxygen from the fluid inside the eyes, and some from the air. Contact lenses fit over your cornea and cover them. Even though contact lenses are now gas permeable, there is some reduction of oxygen access from the air compared to not wearing contacts. Overtime, the corneas can get weaker since they are chronically, slightly oxygen deprived. This is especially true if you over use contacts, that is, wear them too long during the day, wear them continuously for weeks, or sleep in them.

When you take your contacts off, the suction effect can sometimes pull of some of the superficial cornea cells, creating micro-abrasions or tiny scratches. Sometimes these abrasions can get infected causing a corneal ulcer, especially if the cornea is too weak to fight infection. An infection can be minor, like a warning sign, or extremely serious, such that it fogs up your vision completely and can leave a giant scar that blocks your vision. Looking through a corneal scar is like looking through a foggy or cracked window. If a scar like this damages your cornea, the only way to fix it is to replace the cornea with another one. This is called a corneal graft. This tissue is transplant tissue and is generously donated by people who have died and donated their organs, including their eyes. This surgery can be tedious, and involves a lot of follow-ups with a Cornea Specialist (an Ophthalmologist who has specialized in corneal diseases). Although a corneal ulcer and scar is usually treatable, the treatment can take a long time and a lot of visits to your doctor. The best treatment is to PREVENT problems by using contact lenses RESPONSIBLY:

  1. WASH YOUR HANDS WITH SOAP AND WATER BEFORE PUTTING IN YOUR CONTACTS.
  2. KEEP YOUR CONTACT LENS CASE CLEAN and USE STERILE CLEANING SOLUTIONS. DO NOT WASH YOUR CONTACTS WITH TAP WATER OR SALIVA.
  3. CONSIDER USING DAILY DISPOSABLE CONTACTS: They are cleaner since they are single use, and do not require cleaning or storage in a reusable container that may be contaminated. Extended wear contacts promoted for continuous use for 2-4 weeks without taking them off, still have risk of infection and should be avoided.
  4. DO NOT OVERUSE YOUR CONTACTS: Wear them a maximum 10 hours per day and always take 1-2 days off your contacts completely per week.
  5. OWN A PAIR OF CURRENT GLASSES: You should take your contacts off in the early evening and switch to glasses.
  6. NEVER SLEEP IN YOUR CONTACTS: If you sleep in them by mistake, take them off and give your eyes time to recover - at least 1-2 days without contacts. This rule goes for ALL TYPES of CONTACTS, even extended wear contacts.
  7. KEEP YOUR EYES WELL MOISTURIZED: If your eyes feel dry, use lubricant drops. Some over the counter drops are useful to use about 10-15 minutes prior to putting in your contacts.
  8. RECOGNIZE THE SIGNS OF POSSIBLE INFECTION: When you have been wearing contacts for too long, without any breaks, your eyes will become red and irritated and will need a break. This redness and irritation may be a sign of an early infection, especially if there is a lot of pain, light sensitivity and tearing. If this occurs, see your Optometrist as soon as possible, or go to the emergency department. DO NOT PUT YOUR CONTACTS BACK ON until you have been cleared with an eye exam. If you force yourself to wear your contacts when your eyes are irritated, you may be promoting a bad infection that could get worse and cause vision loss.
  9. UNDERSTAND THAT CONTACTS CANNOT BE WORN FOREVER: Unfortunately, most people cannot tolerate wearing contacts for their entire lives. There comes a time when people may become intolerant of contacts such that every time they put them on, the eyes get red and irritated. This is called contact lens intolerance and happens to most contact lens users after 10-15 years of wearing contacts. You can certainly prolong your ability to tolerate contacts by using them responsibly and not over-using them (as described above).

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