Taking Care of Your Eyes
Eye health is an important aspect of overall health, and not one to be overlooked.
Protecting your eyes from the sun year-round, preventing eye strain from technology, and leading a healthy lifestyle with good diet and exercise can keep your eyes healthy.
Ophthalmologist Dr. James Stroh with EvergreenHealth Eye Care stresses the importance of eye exams and eye health.
Even if you don't have poor vision, it is still critical to have your eyes examined every two years by a professional until age 60, when they become even more important.
What is the difference between an ophthalmologist and an optometrist?
Dr. James Stroh: An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor that diagnoses and treats all eye diseases, performs eye surgery and prescribes and fits eyeglasses and contact lenses to correct vision problems.
An optometrist is a healthcare professional — not a physician — who provides primary vision care, ranging from sight testing and correction to the diagnosis, treatment and management of vision changes.
With this summer's eclipse came a rise in public concern around eye health. The event served as a good reminder that everyone should get regular eye exams, not just those with poor vision.
Dr. Stroh: Eye exams are an important self-care aspect for people at every age.
- Young children should have a comprehensive eye exam at 6 months old, at 3 years old and then again prior to starting first grade.
- Even if you have no symptoms or no known eye conditions, you should be visiting your provider for recurring checkups every two years until turning 60.
- At 60, eye exams become increasingly important and should be conducted yearly.
Most eye diseases often show no symptoms until the damage is quite serious.
By coming in for routine check-ups, you are being proactive in managing your eye health and preventing any conditions from worsening.
Although eye diseases and vision problems are more common in older adults, there are many conditions that can affect younger patients, too.
Dr. Stroh: That's correct. At EvergreenHealth Eye Care, we treat many conditions in younger patients, including:
- Amblyopia, or "lazy eye," is the most common cause of vision impairment we see in young children. This condition occurs when the brain and the eye are not working together correctly, and the brain ends up "favoring" the other eye. We usually treat amblyopia with patch therapy, in which we cover the dominant eye and stimulate vision in the weaker eye to strengthen it.
- Refractive errors are the most frequently diagnosed eye problems in the U.S., occurring when the shape of the eye prevents light from focusing directly on the retina. This can cause blurred vision, double vision, glare, squinting, headaches or eyestrain.
- The most common types of refractive errors are myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), presbyopia (affects ability to focus up close) and astigmatism (images appear blurry and stretched out at all distances).
- All can be corrected by wearing glasses, contact lenses, or in some cases, surgery.
It's important to protect our eyes from sun exposure year-round — even on the most overcast days in Seattle.
Dr. Stroh: Even when it doesn't feel like the sun is out, the sun still emits harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays that can damage your eyes over the long term.
To protect your eyes from the sun, wear sunglasses with both UV-A and UV-B protection anytime you're outside, including while in a car.
For additional coverage, use sunscreen on the delicate skin around your eyes – especially in the summer months –and wear a hat or visor in addition to sunglasses to improve protection.
With the rise of smartphones and other devices, eye strain from screen use is common — and not just among those who work at a computer all day. Overexposure to digital screens can lead to dry eyes, headaches, and neck or back pain.
Dr. Stroh: Follow these tips to minimize eye strain:
- Adjust the brightness of your screen to match the brightness of your office's lighting.
- Position the top of your computer monitor below eye level so you look slightly downward at the screen; this will help minimize strain on your eyes and neck.
- Reduce exposure to short-wavelength visible light by changing the screen's "temperature" to decrease the amount of blue light it emits.
Remember to keep blinking when looking at your screen for extended periods of time, and take breaks when necessary.
How does your diet and wellness routine affect your eye health?
Dr. Stroh: Vitamin deficiency often plays a key factor in eye health.
Adding powerful antioxidants to your diet, such as vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc, can improve your eye health. Do this by eating leafy green vegetables and fish to get these nutrients.
Regular exercise has also been linked to improved eye health by increasing blood circulation and oxygen levels in the eyes, which help to remove toxins that cause disease.