Real eyes: The importance of your vision

August is Eye Care and Cataracts Awareness Month.

August is Eye Care Month.
August is Eye Care Month.

Not only is August National Eye Exam Month, but it is also Cataracts Awareness Month. People over age 55 should be very cautious of cataracts, an eye disease that clouds the lens of the eyes and can lead to vision loss. Diabetic eye disease can cause a wide range of problems that affect the eyes, in particular the retina, lenses and the trabecular meshwork.

Our eyes are an important part of our health and work non-stop. Much of our nonverbal communication comes from the way we listen and express ourselves through our eyes. Our eyes can also reflect our moods and to some degree they reflect our health and wellbeing. There are times when we notice a person is under-the-weather by solely looking into their eyes.

Eye health is important at all stages of life no matter what age. It is a fact that the health of our eyes does change over time. Michigan State University Extension recommends the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlined areas of focus for vision health over the lifespan:

Characteristics of vision outcomes by age groups

  • Infant and childhood (birth to age 18) – In the United States, the most prevalent disabling childhood conditions are vision disorders, including amblyopia, strabismus and significant refractive errors.
  • Adults younger than age 40 – Diabetes affects this age group and is the leading cause of blindness among the working age group, ages 20-74. Lifestyle choices adopted during this period may adversely affect vision and eye health in later years (smoking, sunlight exposure).
  • Adults older than age 40 – The major eye diseases among people age 40 and older are cataract, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.

Other influences impacting eye health

  • Family history – Some individuals may have a family history of eye disease or a chronic illness that can affect your vision. This puts you at a greater risk of vision problems and therefore it is vital that you get your eyes checked more often than most.
  • The sun –UV Rays make it important to take proper precautions to protect your eyes from the sun. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, sunglasses should block 99-100 percent of the sun's UV rays. Check the tag on the packaging to ensure this.
  • Physical health – Particularly for diabetics, according to WebMD if you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, you're more likely to have eye and vision problems. High blood sugar can damage the tiny blood vessels in your eyes over time and lead to an eye disease called diabetic retinopathy. High blood sugars can also lead to cataracts and glaucoma.
  • Workplace environment – Indoors or outdoors, always wear protective eyewear to reduce the occurrence of eye injury.
  • Smoking – Smoking has an adverse effect on eye health. Smoking increases the risk and accelerates the development of cataracts, macular degeneration and optic nerve damage.
  • Eye strain – Mayo Clinic suggests a good rule of thumb for computer eye strain is to follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take your eyes off your computer and look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. It's reasonable to take a break every 15-30 minutes for one to three minutes.

Let August be the month that reminds you to schedule your yearly eye exam. Refresh your eye care routine by reviewing this list provided by the CDC:

  • Know your family’s eye health history
  • Have a comprehensive dilated eye exam
  • Eat right to protect your sight
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Wear protective eyewear
  • Quit smoking or never start
  • Be cool and wear your shades
  • Give your eyes a rest
  • Clean your hands and your contact lenses – properly
  • Practice workplace eye safety

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