Q: If my vision is fine, do I need to worry about my eyes?
A: Yes. Many eye diseases cause no physical symptoms (no eye pain, pressure, discomfort), especially in their early stages, so individuals have no idea an issue is developing. Blurry vision caused by an eye disease is usually a late-stage symptom. Some whole body problems, like elevated blood pressure, diabetes and certain types of cancer can also be detected in the eyes. When it comes to maintaining vision and eye health, prevention is key. Most eye problems can be treated, but it’s most effective to treat them when they are a small problem instead of a big one.
Q: How can I avoid future vision issues?
A: Other than getting annual preventative care eye exams, a healthy diet and lifestyle go a long way in keeping your eyes in top condition. Avoid smoking, which is closely linked to macular degeneration (loss of your sharp, central vision). Smokers are four times as likely to develop macular degeneration as non-smokers, even those with a family history of the disease. On the nutrition side, lutein and zeaxanthin are two of the most important vitamins to keep your eyes healthy and reduce your risk of developing macular degeneration. You can find these nutrients in dark green, leafy vegetables, egg yolks and bell peppers. Vitamin C has been proven to reduce cataract formation. A healthy diet, hydration, moderate exercise, sleep and stress reduction are all important for overall health, including your vision.
Q: Can eye exercises improve vision?
A: That depends. Poorly coordinated eye muscles or focusing difficulties can certainly lead to eyestrain, blurred vision and eye fatigue which can be addressed by special lenses or eye exercises. Unfortunately, none of these exercises can shrink your prescription or eliminate the need for glasses or contact lenses. While adults with certain types of eye muscle problems can benefit from vision exercises, exercises are usually most effective for children who are struggling with a vision-related learning problem, which may manifest as slow reading, skipping words or lines on a page, poor reading comprehension, difficulty copying from the board, etc. These children often still pass a school screening, or have been told at previous exams that they see 20/20. In these cases, we can utilize lenses, prisms, exercises, activities and training techniques in vision therapy sessions with these children to help them learn to use their eyes more effectively with less effort.
Q: I hear a lot about UV protection. How does UV affect my eyes?
A: UV rays damage your eyes in several ways. Cataracts, macular degeneration and bumps or growths on the surface of your eye or eyelids are a few. You can even get a sunburn on the surface of your eye (which feels about as bad as it sounds). Your pupils typically constrict in bright light, limiting the UV rays that can reach the retina (back of the eye). When you wear sunglasses, creating an artificially darker environment, your pupils do not shrink to the same degree. If the sunglasses you wear block an inadequate amount of UV light, more UV rays will reach the retina through that larger pupil. Wearing sunglasses without adequate UV protection is actually worse than wearing no sunglasses, as your body’s natural protective mechanism (to shrink your pupils) does not activate.
Q: Like SPF for my sunscreen, is there any difference between UV protection products for eyes?
A: Look for sunglasses that block 100 percent UVA/UVB. Steer clear of any sunglasses that do not specify how much UV is blocked. Consider how the UV protective layer in the lens is designed. Some lenses have a UV filter built into the lens, which is the most durable type. No matter how scratched those lenses may become, their UV blocking capability is unaffected. Cheaper sunglasses with UV coating applied to the surface of the lens can wear off without you realizing. If you’re an avid outdoors enthusiast, it’s also worth taking the extra precaution to choose UV-blocking contact lenses (which block some, but not all, UV rays) or UV-blocking clear lenses in your regular glasses. Even cloudy days can deliver a significant dose of UV.
Q: What should someone with an active lifestyle know about eyecare?
A: Concussions (also called traumatic brain injuries or TBIs) can have a significant effect on vision. The technology to detect and diagnose brain injuries has improved dramatically over the last decade and has highlighted its prevalence. While brain injuries can cause a host of physical symptoms, up to 90 percent of brain injuries will cause some type of vision-related symptoms such as problems with eye tracking, focusing on close objects, intermittent blurred vision and eye muscle coordination. Deficits in these visual systems can cause difficulty when reading, working on the computer, driving or riding a bike. Special prescriptions, lenses or vision therapy can help reduce their symptoms and promote recovery.
Dr. Virginia Kekahuna, O.D
Dr. Virginia Kekahuna, O.D. is the owner of Acuity Eyecare and the official vision care provider for Texas State Athletics.
Dr. Kekahuna received her undergraduate education at Texas A&M University at College Station, then obtained her optometry degree from the University of California at Berkeley. In addition to comprehensive eye care solutions, she specializes in pediatric vision therapy and performance vision, catering to athletes and vision-critical occupations. She is an active member of the Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association and the International Sports Vision Association.
Kyle, TX | acuitydoc.com