Preventing and Treating Eye Problems

Written by eHealth Navigator

It’s easy to take your eyes for granted.  That’s why the National Eye Institute dedicates the month of May to making eye health a priority.

Your eyes won’t alert you to serious problems.  There are a whole lot of body systems that hurt when you have a problem, but your vision and eyes, the most common disease don’t have early warning signs.

We get accustomed to our vision as it changes, and if we do notice small changes, we figure it is just due to aging.  But vision loss is not normal.  If you notice a change in vision at any age, it deserves attention.  Some 14 million Americans are visually impaired and 11 million would benefit from glasses or contact lenses.

What you can do now

If you haven’t had a complete eye exam, once you are 40, it’s time.  It involves vision screening and putting drops in the eyes to open the pupils and examine the eye’s structure, including the retina.

It’s also a good time to have a quick, painless test for glaucoma, an increase in eye pressure that can cause loss of sight.   Depending on what genetic or ethnic risk factors you may have, you may be advised to come back every year to two years.  African-Americans have a higher risk of glaucoma.

If you wear contact lenses, the cornea needs to be checked annually.  Those with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and some autoimmune diseases, also need annual monitoring.

Overall health and your eyes

Taking care of your health is also important for your eyes.  If you smoke, stop.  Smoking increases the risk of vision loss from macular degeneration and cataracts.

Carefully managing any chronic conditions such as diabetes, coronary heart disease or obesity can also play a role in eye health.  What affects the body affects the eye.

Experts recommend eating a healthy diet with lots of green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes and carrots.  Additional suggestions are to get plenty of omega-3 fatty acids and cold-water fish, such as salmon.  A healthy diet really does help prevent eye disease.

Protecting eyes from accidents is also important.  Wear polarized sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat to protect you from ultraviolet light and glare.  Sunglasses with 98 percent ultraviolet protection are like sunscreen for your eyes.

What not to do

Do not rub your eyes.  If they itch, try artificial tears, a cold compress on your eyes or nonprescription anti-itch drops.  If that doesn’t work, see an ophthalmologist.

Never use other people’s eye drops or eye medicines.  What was prescribed for them may not be right for you.

Don’t ignore symptoms.  If anything changes or bothers you, get it checked out.

Don’t wear old eye makeup.  Throw it away after three months, never borrow makeup and remove it thoroughly every night.  Experts warn against working at a computer for more than 20 minutes at a time without looking 20 feet away.

When to see an eye doctor right away

The American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests seeing an ophthalmologist immediately if you notice:

Bulging of one or both eyes.

A dark curtain or veil that blocks your vision.

Decreased vision, even if temporary.

Double vision.

Excess tearing.

Injury to an eye.

Loss of peripheral (side) vision.

Pain in the eye.

Unusual or persistent redness.

Chronic irritation or dry eyes.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 3 May 2016 11:06PM