How Well Are You Seeing?
How well are you seeing? Are supermarket aisle signs blurred? Is your newsprint getting fuzzy? Is it more and more difficult to see to drive at night?
And what about your children? Do you know how well they're seeing? There's more to good vision than scoring 20/20 on a school screening or at the driver's license bureau. And there's more to vision problems than the obvious symptoms of blurred vision or needing more light to see.
Having basic knowledge about good vision and common vision conditions is the first step you should take to help assure a lifetime of good vision for you and your family.
The second step is building a good relationship with a doctor of optometry who will provide the professional care your eyes deserve.
Early Development Years
Vision plays an important role in helping children adapt to the world around them and in excelling in everyday activities. As a parent, you can help your child by making sure he or she has quality vision care.
The time to start caring for your child's eyes is during the first weeks after birth, when vision skills first begin to develop. You can help your child perfect these skills and prevent vision problems from affecting their lives by following these steps:
- Observe your child's visual behavior. Be alert for signs such as an eye turning in or out, frowning or eye rubbing.
- Develop vision skills. Hang a mobile on your baby's crib, keep toys within your baby's view and talk to your baby as you walk around the room.
- Seek early professional evaluation. Take your child to an optometrist for a thorough eye examination before age three and again before entering school. Early diagnosis of a vision problem is important to successful treatment.
Vision problems among the very young are generally uncommon. Two to be alert for, however, are strabismus (crossed-eyes) and amblyopia (lazy eye). Crossed-eyes involve one or both eyes persistently turning inward, outward, upward or downward. If you notice this, it is time to see an optometrist, as untreated crossed-eyes can lead to other vision problems. Lazy eye is one of the most serious. It involves a loss of sharp, clear central vision in oneeye which cannot be corrected with glasses alone. Lazy eye may occur for other reasons, also, and it usually has no noticeable symptoms. Both of these conditions can be diagnosed by your optometrist in a thorough vision examination and treated with eye patching, corrective lenses, prisms and/or vision therapy.
The Learning Years
Changes in your child's vision may occur during the learning years, but he or she may not realize a problem exists because a child assumes everyone sees the way he or she does.
Vision problems can affect your child's ability to learn, since 80 percent of what children learn comes through vision. Problems may range from seeing a blurred chalkboard to reading difficulties stemming from poor eye movement, focusing and coordination.
Bright children who do not learn often become frustrated and can develop a poor self image, lose interest in school and even turn to delinquent behavior.
To give your child good vision for learning, have his or her eyes examined at the beginning of each school year. Conditions such as nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism often affect school age children. Also, be alert for behavioral signs that may indicate vision performance problems and bring these to your optometrist's attention before the examination begins. Signs that you and your child's teacher may spot include:
- A short attention span or frequent daydreaming.
- A drop in scholastic or sports performance.
- Frequent eye rubbing or blinking.
- Poor eye/hand coordination.
- Avoiding close work.
- Frequent headaches.
- Covering one eye.
- Tilting the head.
- Poor reading.
Your Working Years
From the moment you open them in the morning, your eyes are working for you. Is there anything you do that does not involve them? Even listening to your favorite radio station requires first looking at the dial.
Your eyes are so much a part of your lifestyle, that when they are working under stress or not functioning properly, it can significantly reduce your productivity at work or your enjoyment at play. To take care of your eyes during your working years:
- Be alert for symptoms of vision problems or stress including frequent headaches, tired or burning eyes, blurred vision, frequent accidents, difficulty parking or, frequent near misses when driving, difficulty reading labels, instructions, newspapers, menus or other small print, poor sports performance and a decreased interest in tasks requiring close work.
- Wear proper eye safety equipment when doing hazardous tasks like handling chemicals, using power tools or participating in eye hazardous sports like racquetball.
- Provide good lighting for your work area.
- Take rest breaks from visually demanding tasks.
- Take steps to handle glare properly. Wear sunglasses when outdoors or shade windows to reduce glare on TV screens or video display terminals.
- Have a thorough professional eye examination every two years during your early working years and annually after age 35. Tell your optometrist about symptoms you have noticed; how you use your eyes on the job; and about your hobbies and sports.
With the right care, you can protect your eyes, keep them healthy and help them do all the tasks you ask of them without stress or strain.
The Mature Years
Your eyes, like other parts of your body, change as you grow older. These changes can't be prevented, but you can compensate for them with prescription lenses or behavior tricks and continue to be active and productive.
For example, age may affect your distance vision and your peripheral (side) awareness. Yet, by wearing proper prescription lenses and learning how to frequently look to the side, you can keep driving safely in spite of these vision changes. Annual optometric examinations are important to monitor changes as well as to provide early diagnosis of eye health problems like glaucoma and retinal disorders. Eye health problems, such as macular degeneration, do not affect a large percentage of people, but are more likely to occur as you grow older and they can begin to permanently destroy your vision without your realizing it.
Early diagnosis and today's treatment procedures, can bring problems like glaucoma under control and preserve your vision.
A cataract is not an eye disease, but a vision problem that occurs most often after age 55. Although they sometimes develop quickly, cataracts related to aging usually develop slowly over the years. If you develop cataracts, your optometrist can monitor them and prescribe lenses to help you maintain good vision in spite of them.
Many people can live with cataracts but, if yours interfere with your ability to see even with prescription lenses, they can be removed surgically and, in some cases, replaced with an intraocular lens. Or your optometrist can prescribe other post-surgery alternatives, like contact lenses or special "cataract lenses" to restore good vision. He or she can also advise you about ultraviolet protection, which recent research shows is essential to helping avoid retinal damage after cataract surgery.
Here are some things that you can do to see well and protect your vision during your mature years.
- Increase lighting levels. Mature eyes need more light to see.
- Wear sunglasses outdoors during the day. It will help your eyes adapt more easily to nighttime lighting levels.
- Use your eyes. They won't wear out from too much use. But, take frequent rest breaks from intense concentration. If your eyes tire easily, see your optometrist. You may need a prescription change.
- Have the right glasses for the task. You may need different glasses for night driving or for your hobby or sport.
- Keep car headlights, taillights and mirrors clean and properly adjusted.
- Be alert for symptoms of vision problems, such as blurred vision, seeing spots and floaters, double vision, a decrease in peripheral awareness, pain, redness of the eye and seeing colored rings around lights. If you notice any of these, don't delay in seeing your optometrist.