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Keep An Eye On Your Vision | Spring 2007 Out Here Magazine

Maintaining good eyesight means more than regular exams

Most health-conscious Americans have a yearly physical exam to make sure their heart and other vital organs are in good working order. Yet many of them unwittingly neglect their eye health, and wait for problems to develop before they see an eye doctor.

Your vision may seem clear, but undetected changes can occur from high blood pressure, diabetes, eye tumors, and retinal disorders. That's why having an annual eye exam is so important to good eye health.

Annual eye exams are recommended after age 60 to check for cataract, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and other eye diseases, recommends Dr. Tamara Vrabec, a retinal specialist in Philadelphia.

"In addition to checking for glasses, screening for glaucoma and cataracts should be performed," Vrabec says. "A dilated examination is required to evaluate potential retinal problems including diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration among others."

In addition to yearly eye exams, she says, these strategies can maintain your eye health:

  • Stay in shape. Lifestyle modifications including weight loss, reduction of high blood pressure, and improved cardiovascular fitness may reduce your likelihood of developing age-related macular degeneration.
  • Kick the habit. Stop smoking; better yet, don't start. Smoking has been associated with many blinding conditions, such as diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma.
  • Wear your sunglasses. Ultra-violet (UV) protection and brown lenses are recommended to block both UV light and blue light which have been associated with the development of cataracts and macular degeneration.
  • Enjoy fresh fruits and veggies. Your mother wasn't kidding when she told you that carrots could improve your eyes. Antioxidants found in carrots, red, green, and yellow fruits and vegetables may help prevent eye conditions associated with aging, research suggests. Broccoli contains an antioxidant called sulforaphane, which can help protect the eyes from damage caused by ultraviolet light, Johns Hopkins University researchers discovered. And a recent study suggests that eating the equivalent of a half-cup of cooked spinach four to seven times per week can stave off age-related macular degeneration.
  • Protect against work-related eye injuries. Avoid occupational hazards by wearing protective eyewear. If you operate a string trimmer, lawn mower, hammer, welding torch, or power tools, you risk eye injuries caused by flyaway metal or stone chips. Wear safety glasses with impact-resistant lenses.
  • Get your blood pumping. Exercise regularly to improve the health of blood vessels throughout your body, including your eyes. Regular exercise can help reduce the risk for many serious eye diseases.
  • Skip the eye exercises. Eye exercises do not help maintain your vision health or correct vision problems.

Bethanne Black, of Atlanta, is a freelance journalist who specializes in health care.