Eye Health Tips

Most of us take our eyes for granted. It has been estimated that 50,000 people lose their sight needlessly each year and that 80 million Americans are at risk of eye diseases that can lead to low vision and even blindness. The most common diseases: age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), cataracts, glaucoma, and dry eye disease are all preventable to some extent. Here are some tips to look after what you have and prevent these illnesses:

  • Eat Blueberroes. Blueberries are one of the richest fruit forms of antioxidants, and a study published in The Archives of Ophthalmology found that women and men who ate the greatest amount of fruit were the least likely to develop age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the leading cause of blindness in older people.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking increases your risk of cataracts, glaucoma, dry eyes, and age-related macular degeneration.
  • Eat spinach Studies find that lutein, a nutrient that is particularly abundant in spinach, may prevent age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Ideally, get your lutein in combination with some form of fat (olive oil works great) for the best absorption.
  • Cook with red onions, not yellow. Red onions contain far more quercetin, an antioxidant that is thought to protect against cataracts.
  • Aim your car vents at your feet – not your eyes. Dry, air-conditioned air will suck the moisture out of eyes like a sponge. Aim the vents in your car away from your eyes, or wear sunglasses as a shield. Dry eyes can be more than an inconvenience; serious dryness can lead to corneal abrasions and even blindness if left untreated.
  • Move your computer screen to just below eye level. Your eyes will close slightly when you’re staring at the computer, minimizing fluid evaporation and the risk of dry eye syndrome, says John Sheppard, M.D., who directs the ophthalmology residency program at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia.
  • Take a multivitamin every day. Make it a habit, like brushing your teeth. A major study suggested that if every American at risk for age-related macular degeneration took daily supplements of antioxidant vitamins and zinc, more than 300,000 people could avoid ARMD-associated vision loss over the next five years. Other studies find that women who took vitamin C supplements for at least 10 years were 77 percent less likely to show initial signs of cataracts than those who took no supplemental C. So take a multi with at least 150 mg vitamin C, or take a separate C supplement.
  • Walk at least four times a week. Some evidence suggests that regular exercise can reduce the intraocular pressure, or IOP, in people with glaucoma. In one study, glaucoma patients who walked briskly four times per week for 40 minutes lowered their IOP enough so they could stop taking medication for their condition. It’s also possible – although there’s no proof yet – that walking could also reduce your overall risk of developing glaucoma.
  • Eat fish twice a week. A study from Harvard researchers presented at the 2003 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology’s annual meeting evaluated the diets of 32,470 women and found those who ate the least amount of fish (thus getting the least amount of omega-3 fatty acids) had the highest risk of dry eye syndrome. Even tuna fish (yes, the kind that comes in a can) protected against the syndrome. If you can’t stand fish, or are worried about mercury consumption, try fish-oil supplements to get your omega-3s.
  • Cut back on greasy or sweet snacks. A 2001 study found that people whose diets were high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in omega-6 fatty acids (found in many fat-filled snack foods like commercially prepared pie, cake, cookies, and potato chips) were significantly less likely to develop ARMD than those whose diets were high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, if your diet was high in omega-6 at all – even if you still ate plenty of fish – the protective effects of the omega-3 fatty acids disappeared.
  • Eat sweet potatoes. Since they are rich in vitamin A which can help improve night vision.
  • Turn down the heat in your house. Heat dries out the air, which, in turn, dries out your eyes. In the winter, you might also try adding some humidity with a humidifier or even bunching a lot of plants together in the room in which you spend the most time.
  • Wear sunglasses whenever you leave the house. When researchers examined the relationship between exposure to sunlight and cataracts or ARMD in Chesapeake Bay fishermen, they found that fishermen who protected their eyes from the harsh glare of the sun and its damaging UV rays were significantly less likely to develop these conditions than those who went bare-eyed. Wear the sunglasses even when it’s not sunny out, says Dr. Sheppard. They protect your eyes from the drying effects of wind.
  • Wear a broad-brimmed hat along with your sunglasses. A wide-brimmed hat or cap will block roughly 50 percent of the UV radiation and reduce the UV radiation that may enter your eyes from above or around glasses.
  • Pick some Southern greens for dinner tonight. Because they are high in lutein and zeaxanthin, greens like collards and kale (delicious when lightly steamed with a splash of hot pepper vinegar) may reduce your risk of developing both cataracts and ARMD, and may even slow progression of these diseases once they’ve begun. Both have strong antioxidant properties, which may help repair some of the damage that contributes to both conditions.
  • Eat fresh beets. Beets get their deep red color from phytochemicals called anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that protect the smaller blood vessels in your body, including those in your eyes.
  • Switch to “lite” salt or use spices and herbs instead of salt. Studies find that high-salt diets increase your risk of certain types of cataracts, so stay away from the salty stuff. And while you’re de-salting your diet, don’t forget the salt in processed foods. Check labels for “no-salt” or “no-sodium,” or “low-salt” or “low-sodium” tags when buying canned and other prepared foods.
  • Dab an essential oil of jasmine, peppermint, or vanilla on your arm and sniff. Jasmine, says scent researcher Alan R. Hirsch, M.D., of the Chicago-based Smell and Taste Treatment Research Foundation, increases the beta waves in the frontal lobes of your brain, promoting wakefulness and enabling you to focus better and see things more acutely. All three scents stimulate the limbic system in your brain, which, in turn, stimulates the rods in your eyes, which help you see in dim light.
  • When you’re working or reading, set your alarm to beep every 30 minutes. Use this as a reminder to look up and away from your computer or book to some distant point for 30 seconds. This helps prevent eye fatigue and eyestrain.
  • Check your blood pressure every month. You can do this yourself with a home blood pressure kit, at the doctor’s office, or at the pharmacy. The two leading causes of blindness in the United States are high blood pressure and diabetes, both of which damage blood vessels.
  • Replace your mascara every three months and other eye makeup once a year. Eye makeup is a great repository for bacteria, which can easily be transferred to your eyes and cause infections.
  • Remove eye makeup before going to bed. This prevents small pieces of mascara from winding up in your eye and possibly scratching your cornea.
  • Wear goggles when you’re doing carpentry or even yard work. Debris in the eye can lead to corneal abrasions, which can ultimately damage your vision. Also use protective goggles when you’re swimming to protect your eyes from the chlorine.
  • Use a fresh towel every time you wipe your face. Sharing face towels is a great way to get conjunctivitis, the infection also known as pinkeye.

Healthy Vision and Eye Disease Prevention

Often seniors assume that poor eyesight is a natural part of growing old. By age 65, it is estimated that 1 in 3 Americans have some form of vision impairing eye disease. By detecting and treating eye disease early through annual eye exams, seniors can preserve their sight.

In a study by John Hopkins University to try to convince Medicare and insurance companies to put stronger emphasis on preventive eye care The report looked at a 5 percent sampling (approximately 1.5 million people) of Medicare beneficiaries continuously enrolled from 1999 to 2003 and concluded that those with moderate, severe and total vision loss experienced increases in depression, injuries and the need for nursing home facilities.

More than half of the cases in the study were due to age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and glaucoma. A sizable number of cases of vision loss were due to cataracts that had not been surgically removed.

There are four major eye diseases that affect seniors the most; cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and diabetic eye disease.

Cataracts

A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision. Most cataracts are related to aging and are very common in older people. In fact, by age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery.

Symptoms are usually cloudy or poor vision, poor night vision, halos around lights, colors seem faded and the need for frequent changes in prescriptions.

In the early stages difficulty from cataracts may be improved with new eyeglasses, brighter lighting, anti-glare sunglasses, or magnifying lenses. By the later stages cataract surgery may be need to remove the clouded lens and replace it with an artificial lens.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the eye’s optic nerve. It is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States, and the most common cause of blindness among African-Americans. More than three million people have glaucoma, but half do not realize it because there are often no warning symptoms.

Damage progresses very slowly and destroys vision gradually, starting with the side vision or what is called peripheral vision. One eye covers for the other, and the person remains unaware of any problem until a majority of nerve fibers have been destroyed, and a large part of vision has been destroyed and straight ahead vision is affected. This damage is irreversible.

Treatment cannot recover what has been lost. But it can arrest, or at least, slow down the damage process. That is why it is so important to detect the problem as early as possible, to be able to start treatment with as little damage to the vision as possible. Medication in the form of eye drops or pills are the most common early treatment for glaucoma. Laser or conventional surgeries are also available options when needed. (Continue this article at the website)

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

The leading cause of vision loss in over 60s is age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Macular degeneration doesn’t always cause total blindness, but it slowly affects the part of vision that is crucial for recognizing faces and doing detailed work. Blurred vision or a need for more light when you’re reading may occur first. Then, straight lines may begin to appear crooked, and dark or empty spaces may begin to block your central vision, similar to a blind spot when you’re driving.

Diabetic Eye Disease

Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. There are two types of diabetes; Type 1- is when the body fails to produce insulin, the hormone that allows cells to turn food into energy. Type 2- is when the body is resistant or fails to properly use the insulin, this is the most common form.

Diabetes is already the number one cause of blindness in the United States. Diabetics are 25 times more likely to lose vision than those who are not diabetic according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Proper treatment of diabetic retinopathy can cut the risk of vision loss by over half. Treatment before diabetic retinopathy causes severe loss is much more effective than later in the disease. For this reason, early diagnosis is critical in order to prevent visual loss and blindness. Control of diabetes and blood pressure is important; intensive control of blood glucose can delay onset and slow progression of retinopathy.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases of the optic nerve involving loss of cells located at in the retina, the back of the eye. If glaucoma is untreated it leads to permanent damage of the optic nerve and visual field loss, which could lead to blindness.

Glaucoma Symptoms

Open angle glaucoma (OAG) or chronic glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma in the United States and in the United Kingdom. Open angle progresses more slowly so the patient might not notice it until the disease has progressed quite far. A lot of the time the visual field deteriorates gradually over a long time and may only be recognized when it has become advanced. Once lost this damaged visual field can never be recovered. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness world wide. Glaucoma affects one in two hundred people aged fifty and younger, and one in ten over the age of eighty.

Closed angle glaucoma (CAG) or acute glaucoma is less common, accounting for about 10% of all glaucoma cases in the United States. In closed angle glaucoma, the iris and the lens block the movement of fluid between the chambers of the eye causing pressure to build up and the iris to press on the drainage system (trabecular meshwork). It could cause sudden blurred vision with pain and redness, usually in one eye first; symptoms may also include nausea and vomiting. A related type, acute closed angle glaucoma, is often an emergency situation and needs immediate medical care to prevent permanent damage to the eye. Angle closure appears suddenly and usually with painful side effects so is usually quickly diagnosed – although damage and loss of vision can also occur very suddenly.

Congenital glaucoma is a rare form of glaucoma that is present in some infants at birth. Glaucoma that develops during the first few years of life is called infantile glaucoma. Infants with congenital or infantile glaucoma usually have cloudy eyes that are sensitive to light and have excessive tearing. Symptoms may not develop until 6 months to 1 year after birth. If the problem is not detected early and treated, the child may have severe vision loss and may go blind. People between the age of 3 years and young adulthood can develop a similar type of glaucoma called juvenile glaucoma.

Glaucoma Causes

Damage to the optic nerve is thought to be caused by increased pressure in the eye. This may result from excess fluid (aqueous humor) building up in the eye because the eye produces too much or drains too little of the fluid. However, many cases of glaucoma develop without increased IOP. In these cases, decreased blood flow to the optic nerve may cause the damage. Glaucoma may develop after an eye injury, after eye surgery, from the growth of an eye tumor, or as a complication of a medical condition such as diabetes. Certain medications (corticosteroids) may cause glaucoma when they are used to treat eye inflammation or other diseases. Glaucoma that develops as a result of another condition is called secondary glaucoma.

Glaucoma Diagnosis

Your health professional will take a medical history and do a physical exam. If glaucoma is suspected, you usually will be referred to an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) for further testing and treatment. The initial evaluation by a specialist may require up to 3 visits.

Glaucoma Treatment

The treatment for glaucoma concentrates on slowing the damage to the optic nerve by lowering the pressure in the eyes. Eye drops and other medications are also used to treat Glaucoma. Often laser treatment or surgery is needed.