What would you do if you lost your sight?
Three percent of Americans over 40 are legally blind or have low vision, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Here are some common eye disorders, how they affect your vision, and ways to help protect your eyes.
Common Eye Disorders
Many of these eye disorders develop slowly over time, so identifying them early can help to slow their progression.
If you experience any of these symptoms at any time, contact your physician or ophthalmologist.
The most common cause of vision loss, a cataract is a clouding of the lens. Currently the only treatment is surgical removal of the cataract, often only when it affects your normal, daily activities.
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
- A cataract will cause cloudy or blurry vision in one or both eyes. Many people describe it as constantly looking through a waterfall.
- You may notice poor night vision.
- Colors may appear faded.
AMD is the most common eye disorder in people over age 65. AMD is a disease of the macula, the area of the retina responsible for detailed central vision. It rarely causes blindness because it only affects our center of vision. As we age, our macula deteriorates as part of the natural aging process; however, the main cause of AMD is unknown.
- One of the main symptoms of AMD is blurry vision.
- It can be difficult distinguishing familiar faces.
- You may find a dark or empty spot in your center of vision.
- While reading, the lines of text may appear wavy.
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of blindness in American adults. Caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina, the longer a person has diabetes or uncontrolled blood sugars increases his or her risk for retinopathy.
Controlling your blood sugar is the best way to avoid this condition. Everyone with diabetes should have an annual eye exam, regardless of whether or not they have any symptoms. Diabetes will also increase your chance of developing cataracts or glaucoma.
- Diabetic retinopathy will usually affect both eyes.
- Blurry vision is often a symptom in the early stages.
- One may develop blocked vision in a portion of his or her eyesight. Blocked vision is usually reversible, but sometimes may not be.
Glaucoma is characterized by damage to the eye¿s optic nerve from increased fluid pressure. Individuals with glaucoma cannot properly remove the fluid our eyes normally produce.
A rapid rise in pressure is considered a glaucoma attack, as symptom onset is usually quick and more severe. If you believe you have had an attack, you should see an ophthalmologist immediately.
Early detection is important, as untreated glaucoma can cause blindness. Treatment with eye drops and/or surgery may help to preserve your vision. Pay attention to these symptoms:
Household and Outdoor Protection
- Pain in the eye or brow.
- Redness of the eye(s).
- Blurred vision or halos.
- Headache, nausea, and/or vomiting.
The fifth annual Eye Injury Snapshot showed that 44.7% of eye injuries occur in the home. Many reported injuries occurred while working on home repair projects, regular cleaning, and even cooking. Some experts say that up to 90% of injuries could be avoided by wearing proper American National Standard Institute (ANSI) certified eye protection.
In addition to protective eyewear, here are some simple steps you can take to prevent accidental injuries around the house:
- Make sure to wash your hands after using household cleaners and chemicals; many are hazardous. Do not mix different cleaning agents.
- If chemicals come into contact with your eyes, flush your eyes with water and go immediately to the emergency room.
- Hot oils can splatter when cooking certain foods or while deep frying. Protect yourself with a grease splatter screen.
- If you're celebrating with champagne, take care to open the bottle safely:
- Don't shake it.
- Don't use a corkscrew.
- Keep your palm on the cork while removing the wire.
- Keep the bottle pointed away from you and others, at a 45-degree angle.
- Place a towel over the cork while you remove it.
- Chill champagne well before opening; it's less likely to unexpectedly pop.
- Mowing the lawn or using power trimmers/edgers often produces flying debris. Always wear ANSI safety goggles while doing yard work.
- Never look directly into the sun or into an eclipse.
- When outdoors, wear ultraviolet (UV) protection sunglasses.
During the snapshot, 78% of the individuals who sustained injuries were not wearing eye protection. Of those who were, only 5.3% had proper ANSI safety glasses or sports goggles.
While many employers will require their employees to wear protective eyewear (construction, welding, etc.), others may not. Always consider your potential risk in your job.
Long hours in front of a computer screen, tablet, or other device can also cause your eyes to become tired and dry. Here are some ways to avoid this.
Contact Lens Care
- Sit about 25 inches from the screen and try to sit in a position so you are looking downward.
- The average person blinks around 18 times a minute, but only about half as much when in front of a screen. Place a note around your desk to remind you to blink.
- The 20-20-20 Rule
- Every 20 minutes, focus on an object at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- Make sure to get enough rest at night. Sleep deprivation can cause eyes to become irritated more easily.
In 2012, it was estimated that 38 million Americans wear contact lenses. While they're helpful and more convenient than conventional eyeglasses, improper contact lens care can quickly lead to eye infections. Try these tips:
Reducing Eye Disorders Risk
- Wash your hands with soap and water before handling your contacts.
- Never use water—even sterile water—or your saliva to wet your contacts.
- Use fresh solution every time you clean or store and make sure to rub your lenses.
- Always wear and discard your contacts as scheduled by your eye-care professional.
- Do not sleep in your contacts, even those intended for extended wear.
- It is good practice to replace your lens case every three months. A contaminated case can lead to infections.
While not all eye disorders or injuries can be prevented, there are many steps we can take to decrease our risks.
- Wear ANSI certified eye protection for home and yard projects, sports, and at work when necessary.
- Practice proper contact lens care.
- Be aware of any unusual symptoms. Early detection may help prevent complications.
- If you have current vision problems and/or diabetes, you should schedule annual eye exams. Otherwise, talk to your doctor to determine when an eye exam is necessary.
- Always contact your physician or ophthalmologist if you develop any of the symptoms mentioned above.
The information presented here is not intended to diagnose or treat health problems or to constitute medical advice. If you have persistent health problems or further questions, please consult with your physician.
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