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Visual Perspective

Jul 25, 2018 03:30PM ● Published by Debbie Hall

Preventive screenings and proper care can make gazing at our loved ones, enjoying spectacular landscapes, or even enjoying a killer concert far more enjoyable. The American Optometric Association recommends that our eyes are checked as early as 6 months old. It’s so important to make sure the world children see is as bright and beautiful as possible.

Have you ever thought about what all that screen time and visual sensory overload does to your eyes? Most of us don’t. We stare for countless hours at our smartphones, computers, and televisions for so long we forget that we might actually be taking our eyesight for granted. Slowly but surely, our sight becomes less and less sharp which is why it’s so important to schedule regular eye exams. Just like an annual physical, our eyes need regular tending to. After all, those peepers are the windows to the soul.

Dr. Jennifer Burke, OD, Eyediology Vision Care, offers some essential tips on preserving that precious sense of sight. “While there are eye screenings at school, children should be examined annually by an eye doctor. There is so much more that goes into eye care than a screening,” says Burke.

“The truth is that many times kids won’t say anything especially if they can see well out of one eye,” she explains. “However there are symptoms such as headaches. Parents might think their child is just trying to stay out of school, but it can also be a sign of eye strain.” Other signs are when a child covers one eye to see, falls asleep or loses place while reading, or has difficulty maintaining attention in the classroom. Thankfully eyeglasses these days are stylish, but they’re purposeful. Lens technology has come a long way and for kids, they’re coated with an antiglare film to block out some of the blue light.

As adults, we’re reminded of how important it is to take breaks from our devices, and kids are no different. According to Burke, in a perfect world she would have small children avoid devices altogether, but since that isn’t realistic, she does encourage parents to limit exposure, especially an hour before bedtime. While she recommends this for adults as well, children are very susceptible to high-energy blue light emitted by smartphones and tablets.

Blue light from the sun regulates the wake/sleep cycles. When we dose ourselves with this light before going to sleep, our brain gets an alert message that inhibits us from reaching the deep REM sleep we need.

How can we fix that? Switch to nighttime mode, especially if working on a device into the night and early morning (note to self, turn it on nighttime mode).

Instead of looking at our devices, Burke goes old school and suggests reading a book that relaxes, connects, and aids in a sound sleep. During the day, she also recommends what’s called visual hygiene—the 20/20/20 rule. For every 20 minutes spent looking at a device or computer screen, spend 20 seconds focusing on something 20 feet away. You may want to consider getting some glasses too that help prevent eyestrain.

It can’t be said enough: it’s so important for us to get our eyes checked on the regular, especially those who are entering their 40s. Our sight changes as we get older. Ever wonder why you hold your phone at that weird angle when a text comes through? May be time to enlarge your font.

“This happens to everyone,” says Burke. “The eye ages and this is the first sign. Some of my patients, especially those who have never worn corrective lenses, might panic but difficulty in focusing is normal as we age.”

Some things do need attention like symptoms including red eyes, eye pain, changes in color vision or blockage. If you’re experiencing floaters, flashes of light, or any shadows, it is imperative to see an eyecare provider immediately for a possible retinal detachment. If that is the diagnosis, a retinal specialist can repair the damage within two days, and lost vision can possibly be restored.

Cataracts will eventually develop in an aging population but the condition is treatable with a 15-minute surgery. New advances allow surgeons to replace the aged lens with a prescriptive lens that enables the patient to see better than they may have ever seen before.

“There are always improvements with Lasik surgery,” says Burke. An eye specialist can determine if you’re a good candidate but Burke cautions never to use a discount coupon or be influenced by advertising.

While this is elective surgery, a conversation with a professional eye doc—an ophthalmologist [MD] or a doctor of osteopathic medicine [DO]—is essential.

With all the advancements in the optics industry, patients have a variety of options in terms of the best ways to see clearly. From disposable lenses to fashion-forward glasses to Lasik and anything in between, what matters most is finding the right fit, and checking those beautiful eyes annually.

While Burke doesn’t believe medical cannabis does enough for patients with glaucoma, it has unending benefits for most other diagnoses. In terms of why cannabis doesn’t do enough for patients with glaucoma, it’s because glaucoma is more complex. Glaucoma occurs when the intraocular pressure (fluid pressure inside the eye) is too high for the eye to handle. Glaucoma can cause the nerve from the eye to the brain to degenerate. Medical cannabis can lower the pressure for about two hours, but as soon as the effects wear off, patients must continuously dose over a 24-hour period. With medical advances, eye doctors can slow down the disease but unfortunately, there is no cure. Yet.

In order to see the world, we have to take the time to care for the part of us that allows us to experience it.
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