Monday Medical: Tips for clear vision and healthy eyes
For the Steamboat Pilot & Today
It may be easy to take good vision for granted, but that quickly changes when an issue strikes.
Dr. Nathan Hamburger, an ophthalmologist in Steamboat Springs and a member of the medical staff at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, shares his tips to keep eyes healthy and vision clear.
Foster healthy habits
The benefits of a healthy lifestyle extend to your eyes.
“Health issues that affect your body adversely, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, also affect your eyes,” Hamburger said. “If you eat a good diet, exercise, keep your blood pressure under control and don’t smoke, chances are your eyes will stay healthy for a while.”
Get regular eye checks
If you have glasses, regular vision screenings help ensure your prescription is working properly.
But trips to the eye doctor aren’t just about vision correction. Even if you don’t need glasses, you should get your eyes checked every few years, as eye exams are the only way to find certain issues that can be treated early on but don’t cause symptoms.
“With glaucoma, patients don’t really experience any symptoms until the disease has progressed and there is already a lot of irreversible vision loss,” Hamburger said. “A screening can highlight potential issues that you can treat to slow the disease.”
It’s especially important for children to have regular vision screenings to catch issues that cause vision loss as early as possible.
Correct vision as needed
If it turns out you do need glasses, know that wearing glasses doesn’t hurt your eyes.
“People think they’ll get dependent on glasses or that glasses will make their vision worse,” Hamburger said. “But that’s not true. Glasses don’t hurt or help your eyes. They just help you see better when you’re wearing them.”
Trust your eyes
“The nice thing about your eyes is they generally tell you if you’re seeing well,” Hamburger said. “So, if you’re noticing problems — such as pain, light sensitivity and vision issues — don’t ignore them. With some problems, we can fix them if we catch them early. But, if we don’t catch them early enough, there may be nothing we can do.”
Understand what can go wrong
There are various eye issues, but the major ones are as follows.
• Glaucoma: This painless loss of peripheral vision usually develops during the course of decades and is a result of increased pressure in the eye. It can be treated when caught early.
• Cataracts: This clouding of the lens of the eye can make you feel like you’re looking through a dirty window. Cataracts develop as people age and can be corrected with a quick outpatient surgery.
• Diabetic retinopathy: If you suffer from diabetes, you should have your eyes checked regularly for signs of this disease in which the eye doesn’t get enough oxygen. Because of that stress, cells in the retina start to die or new blood vessels may form that cause other issues. Good management of blood glucose levels is the best way to help prevent the disease, and treatments are available.
• Macular degeneration: A painless loss of vision, this disease is often caused by smoking. In early stages, it can be treated with vitamins to slow progression; in later stages, rapid vision loss may result.
“If you do have macular degeneration, it’s important to have your eyes checked on a regular basis,” Hamburger said.
Wear eye protection
“The major cause of vision loss for people between the ages of 10 and 50 is trauma,” Hamburger said. “Be sure to wear appropriate eye protection for whatever activities you’re doing.”
Susan Cunningham writes for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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