April 30, 2014
National Eye Institute Celebrates Healthy Vision Month In May
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Each May since 2003 the National Eye Institute (NEI) has been celebrating Healthy Vision Month. As with past years, the Institute makes the case for eye care, stating that an eye examination is just as important as seeing a doctor or nurse for a physical examination.
During Healthy Vision Month, NEI – an arm of the National Institutes of Health – empowers Americans to make eye health a top priority and educates them on steps that should be taken to protect their vision.
These steps include: getting a dilated eye exam; living a healthy lifestyle, including eating healthy foods and maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking; knowing family medical history; using protective eye wear when needed; and wearing sunglasses outdoors in the sun.
Many people probably think their vision is in good health, but visiting an eye care professional for a comprehensive dilated eye exam is the only way to be completely certain. When it comes to common vision problems, many people do not realize their vision can be improved with glasses or contact lenses.
And many common eye diseases such as glaucoma, diabetic eye disease and age-related macular degeneration often have no symptoms. A dilated eye exam is the only way to detect these problems in the early stages, according to NEI.
People should talk to their physician about how often they should have a dilated eye exam, which is a simple, noninvasive procedure.
Living healthy is not only good for your body, but also good for your eyes.
You can start taking steps toward a healthy lifestyle first by maintaining a healthy weight. Being overweight and obese increases the risk of developing diabetes and other systematic conditions that can lead to vision loss, such as diabetic eye disease and glaucoma.
Good eye health also depends on proper nutrition. Everyone knows that eating carrots is good for the eyes, but there are many more foods that also help keep your eyes healthy. These include most fruits and vegetables, especially dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale and collard greens. Research has shown that eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids – for example: salmon, tuna and halibut – has significant benefits for eye health.
Many people may want to quit smoking for their physical health, but smoking is also very bad for the eyes. According to NEI, research has linked smoking to an increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and optic nerve damage, all of which can lead to blindness.
Chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and multiple sclerosis can greatly impact eye health, resulting in inflammation of the optic nerve, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and eventually blindness. Seeking help from eye care professionals may be the only way to prevent these eye problems from occurring.
Also important is knowing family medical history. It is important to know if anyone in the immediate family has been diagnosed with an eye disease, since many are hereditary. Knowing family medical history will determine the risk of developing eye disease
According to statistics revealed by NEI, about 2,000 US workers per day have a job-related eye injury that requires medical treatment. As well, every 13 minutes an ER in the US treats a sports-related eye injury.
Protecting your eyes with proper eye equipment can prevent most of these injuries from occurring. Proper eyewear includes safety glasses, safety shields, and eye guards that are made of polycarbonate, which is 10 times stronger than other plastics. Many eye care providers sell protective eyewear, as do some sporting goods stores. As well, visit NEI’s “finding protection” page for information on protective eyewear requirements for each sport, or OSHA’s guidelines for eye safety at work.
When not working or playing sports, outdoor eye health can be maintained by wearing sunglasses to protect eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. UV exposure can eventually lead to cataracts, macular degeneration, and/or pterygium, a tissue growth over the white part of the surface of the eye that can alter the curve of the eyeball, causing astigmatism.
When purchasing sunglasses, look for ones that block out 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB radiation. If sunglasses are not an option, a good hat that shades the eyes from the sun is also helpful.
Taking these steps can help prevent vision loss or blindness from many eye diseases and conditions. As well, dilated eye exams can detect problems early, when they are easier to treat.
The NEI has released a series of videos highlighting how everyone can protect their eyes by following some easy steps.
“Celebrate Healthy Vision Month by taking these steps today! You’ll help ensure your eyes are healthy and that you’re seeing well for a lifetime. And don’t forget to spread the word to your family, friends, and colleagues,” says NEI.