By Pamela A. Keene
There’s more to taking care of your eyesight as you age than buying readers or a magnifying glad to help with reading.
“We recommend that most people in their 20s and 30s have their eyes checked at least every five years as part of routine wellness,” says Jack Chapman, MD, with Gainesville Eye Associates. “Then starting in their mid- to late 30s, eye examinations every two years can help screen for changes in vision or the onset of eye issues.”
Chapman says that the three greatest threats to eye health as people age are cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma. “They’re the three biggies and especially if you have a family history of any of these issues, or diabetes, it’s important to get regular screenings.”
In the past several years, cataracts have been occurring in people as early as their 40s and 50s, younger than in the past. Symptoms include increased glare, difficulty driving at night and needing more light to read. With medical advances, the number of treatment options for cataracts is broad. “The cloudy lens is surgically removed and replaced by an artificial one,” Chapman says. “We can replace the lens with one that’s multi-focal or even a lens that can address issues such as astigmatism. Typically, it’s an outpatient procedure and sometimes people are less dependent on glasses afterward”
Macular degeneration, most often age-related, causes blurred vision, and affects the central sight. “In advanced stages, people aren’t able to see other people’s faces or objects directly in front of them,” he says. “They may still maintain their peripheral sight, but the center may be blurred or
fuzzy. Regular screening is crucial to early detection.”
He says there are two types of macular degeneration – dry and wet. “The dry form develops more slowly, but the wet form is more aggressive and fast-growing,” Chapman says. “For the dry type, nutritional therapy, vitamins and supplements can help. Injections may help control the wet type.”
According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, more than 3 million Americans may have glaucoma, but only half are aware that they’ve been affected. It’s the second leading cause of blindness and is more prevalent in people aged 60 and older, African-Americans, and people with diabetes or who are severely nearsighted.
Glaucoma is best detected by regular screenings, because it has no early warning signs. Increased pressure in your eyes may not result in pain, but loss of sight may begin with diminished side or peripheral vision. “It’s very important to be screened for glaucoma by checking the pressure in your eyes,” he says. “It’s a condition that affects the optic nerve and it can be extremely serious. It can cause blindness, but it can be slowed with medication and/or surgery.”
Drops or laser procedures may help with relieving pressure inside the eye. With the number of pollutants in the environment, dry eye has become more prevalent. That’s when your eyes underproduce the natural lubricants, including tears, to maintain the proper amount of moisture. “Drops and artificial tears can help, but you should really address dry eye symptoms with your physician,” he says. “That way, your treatment can be targeted to your specific case.” Preventive care can help avert eye deterioration and damage. “Get some good sunglasses that provide your eyes from ultraviolet lights, because exposure to UV rays may contribute to macular degeneration. And wear eye protection when you’re gardening, weed-eating and mowing, or doing projects such as building or repairs. Safety glasses are designed to protect your eyes from injury, it’s a good habit to develop to always wear them in these types of situations. ”He also recommends limiting time on electronic devices, from computers and tablets to phones. “Research is actively being done to determine the affects of the blue light that emanates from these devices,” he says. “Take regular breaks and avoid browsing on these instruments in the dark.”
Getting regular eye examinations is one of the most important keys to protecting your vision. “Your eyesight is precious,” he says. “Schedule regular examinations, even if you don’t wear glasses or contacts, and asked to be screened for possible issues.” Gainesville Eye Associates is located at 2601 Beverly Road in Gainesville. The phone number is 770-532-4444. For more information, the website is https://www.gainesvilleeye.com/.
Who’s Your Eye Doctor
Sometimes it can be confusing about what kind of eye doctor
you should see. Here’s an overview of the three main specialties:
Ophthalmologist – a physician trained in surgery of the eye,
who can also diagnose and treat eye diseases and injuries and
Optometrist – a physician who can treat eye disorders, such
as pink eye and allergies, prescribe and fit glasses and contacts,
and can diagnose issues including cataracts, glaucoma and macular
Optician – a technician who designs, fits and dispenses corrective
lenses to improve vision. An optician uses a prescription
written by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist.