By Ernst Lamothe Jr.
All of your five senses matter. The deterioration of any of them can greatly decrease quality of life.
When it comes to vision, there are a variety of issues that may present themselves — blurriness, difficulty distinguishing distant and nearby objects, blind spots and fading of colors, among others.
Different eye conditions affect vision in unique ways. Almost 12 million people aged 40 years and older in the United States have vision impairment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Having good vision is important for our mental health and our ability to connect with the world,” said physician Sandra Sieminski, director of glaucoma services at Ross Eye Institute and clinical vice chairwoman of the department of ophthalmology at University at Buffalo. “It is essential to make sure your vision is preserved and that your eyes are healthy.”
Sieminski discusses five tips to sustain good eye care.
1. Diet matters
Proper eating habits affect every organ in your body, including your eyes. Eating a regular, healthy balance of leafy greens, vegetables and fish provides your eyes with the nourishment it needs.
“Taking vitamins and supplements such as vitamin A and C and Omega 3 fatty acids can also be helpful to retinal health,” said Sieminski. “But for most patients, taking a multivitamin and eating a balanced diet is more than sufficient. They help the nerve tissue in the back of the eye called the retina.”
Sieminski said that a good diet can help prevent diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension, which have all been tied to visual degeneration.
2. Protect your eyes
All radiation is a form of energy, most of which is invisible to the human eye. Extended exposure to the sun’s UV rays has been linked to significant eye problems, including cataracts, macular degeneration and a host of other issues. To protect your eyes from harmful solar radiation, you should wear sunglasses that block 100% UV rays whenever you are outdoors in daylight. The World Health Organization estimates up to 20% of cataracts may be caused by overexposure to UV radiation. “We see so many serious eye injuries that could have been prevented if patients were wearing protective eyewear,” said Sieminski.
In addition, when doing any outdoor activities such as gardening or construction, eye protection remains essential.
3. Family history
Eye problems can be hereditary. There are hundreds of various genetic eye disorders.
“In many serious glaucoma and macular degeneration cases, the likelihood increases when you have a first degree relative with the same issue,” she said. “That is why it is essential to familiarize yourself with your family history, and every one to two years visit your physician. Many are surprised about how much can be discovered by a simple eye appointment.
“When we look into your eyes, people don’t realize that we can directly see the blood vessels inside your eye. We can see how systemic diseases such as high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes affect these blood vessels, and many times we can help diagnose these diseases through our eye exams,” added Sieminski.
4. Stop smoking
Smoking is as bad for your eyes as it is for the rest of your body. If you smoke, you can develop serious eye conditions that can cause vision loss or blindness. Cataracts or clouding of the eye’s natural lens are a leading cause of blindness in the world. More than 50% of Americans will have a cataract or have had cataract surgery by age 80. Smokers significantly increase their risk of developing a cataract compared with non-smokers.
“Smoking can cause optic nerve damage and can increase your risk of a stroke to the blood vessels inside your eyes,” she said. “Dry eyes is another common condition that can worsen with smoking exposure.”
5. COVID-19 and eye care
There have been reports of those infected by the coronavirus having a temporary loss of some of their key senses such as smell and taste.
“There have also been studies out of China where patients had pink eye as a presenting symptom,” said Sieminski. “Also, as many already know, COVID-19 can be transmitted through direct contact with your eyes. That is why we stress handwashing and not touching your eyes, nose and mouth.”
Sieminski said her office is taking all the precautions to keep people safe during their appointments. She understands that there is a heightened fear among everyone.
“We do stress if you are having intense pain in your eyes or an acute loss of vision that you do not delay and make an appointment to get your eyes checked,” she added.