There is so much information about our eyes, that it becomes difficult to put a lot in a one-time article. Your ophthalmologist can answer your questions, but I’ll try to clarify some of what you already are aware.
To begin, one of the quite common maladies of the eye is dryness, due to an imbalance in the quantity or quality of tears. If left untreated, this problem can damage eye tissue, leading to sight threatening conditions. Some symptoms include dry, red, gritty or even watery eyes, which is usually a reflex response to the dryness. People over 65 are especially prone as tear volume decreases. Causes include some drugs, environmental factors, even computer use; also, some diseases, even eye surgery. If you suspect this condition, see your health care provider before using any product.
Next, I have some eye care facts and myths:
Using computers can damage your eyes:
False. Working on computers will not harm your eyes, but when used for long periods of time, could make them dry. Reduced blinking can cause this and may lead to the feeling of eyestrain or fatigue. Taking regular breaks to look up or across the room and using artificial tears can help.
Children outgrow crossed or misaligned eyes:
False. A child whose eyes are misaligned may develop poor vision in one eye, as the brain will “turn off” or ignore the image from the misaligned or “lazy eye.” The unused eye will not develop good vision unless it is forced to work, usually by patching the stronger eye. This is an example of when to see an ophthalmologist, and the earlier the treatment (may include eyeglasses, eye drops or surgery), the better.
Learning disabilities are caused by eye problems.
False. This includes reading and math problems. There is no scientific evidence that eye trouble causes learning disabilities, or that eye exercises cure learning problems. These children need help from teachers and people with special training but need a medical eye examination to rule out a vision problem that may affect reading.
Sitting close to the television can damage children’s eyes.
False. Children can focus up close without eye strain better than adults, and the habit usually disappears as they grow older. However, sometimes children with nearsightedness (myopia) sit close to the television to see the images more clearly.
Eating carrots improves your vision.
False. Although carrots are rich in vitamin A, a well-balanced diet provides enough vitamin A necessary for good vision. I do believe a supplemental multi-vitamin daily is beneficial for children but ask your physician first.
Wearing glasses will cause you to become dependent on them.
False. Wearing glasses make you get used to seeing clearly, and having clear vision is preferable to uncorrected vision.
It’s sometimes confusing to a patient as to which doctor to see for eye care. In addition to your family physician (who will refer you to the correct professional) the “eye doctors” are listed below.
An Ophthalmologist is a medical doctor (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.), uniquely trained to diagnose and treat all disorders of the eye. An ophthalmologist is qualified to perform surgery, prescribe and adjust eyeglasses and contact lenses, and prescribe medication.
An Optometrist (O.D.) is not a medical doctor, but is specially trained to diagnose eye abnormalities, and prescribe, supply and adjust eyeglasses and contact lenses. Optometrists can prescribe medications to treat some eye disorders. Your optometrist will tell you when you need to see an ophthalmologist.
An Optician fits, supplies, and adjusts eyeglasses and contact lenses. An optician cannot examine the eyes or prescribe eyeglasses or medication.
As for eye diseases, vast research into several vitamins and minerals are being studied on an on-going basis. See your ophthalmologist as to which of these might be helpful in preventing and maybe lessen the effects of macular degeneration. Lutein, an antioxidant plant chemical has been found to possibly help lessen the risk for some eye diseases of the retina. Lutein is contained in fruits such as oranges and dark leafy vegetables like spinach and broccoli as well as in lettuce, carrots and celery, and can be taken in supplemental form as well.
The same measures that lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and hypertension apply to diseases of the eyes. They are:
- Not smoking
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption
- Getting regular physical exercise
- Controlling blood pressure
- Minimizing exposure to ultraviolet light (sunlight, tanning booths). Be sure to always wear good sunglasses and a hat that shelters your eyes from the sun.