Keeping an Eye on Your Eye Health
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Eye health goes beyond being able to see clearly. The eyes are a great indicator of underlying health issues and a simple, comprehensive eye exam can detect silent, otherwise undetected conditions. Waziha Samin, OD, Cooper Clinic Optometrist, explains how our eyes are connected to our overall health and the preventive steps you can take to protect your eyes from developing long-term issues.
Taking care of your eyes – the basics
Our eyes are a critical part of our overall health and wellness. They develop over time and each stage of life is different. To ensure your eyes are healthy and diseases and risk factors are detected early on, here are a few recommendations from Dr. Samin.
Annual eye exam
First and foremost, have an annual, comprehensive eye exam. The tissues in our eyes do not have pain receptors, making several conditions hard to catch without an eye exam. You may be able to see clearly but have damage to your eyes that will go undetected without proper care. If left undiagnosed, the damage may be irreversible.
An eye exam at Cooper Clinic includes a vision screening, checking your prescription to see if you need any corrections and examining the structures of the eye using the latest imaging techniques. “We take it a step further for patients with diabetes or those over the age of 50 by screening for glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy,” Dr. Samin says.
Nutrition plays a large role in keeping your eyes healthy. Generally, whatever is good for your body is also good for your eyes. Things such as keeping your blood pressure and blood sugar levels under control not only help your body but also help keep your eyes in good condition. “Having a good diet filled with green, leafy vegetables, colorful vegetables and fruits high in antioxidants helps protect the pigment in the tissues in the back of our eyes,” says Dr. Samin.
Sun exposure, screen time and lack of sleep
Protecting your eyes from the sun is critical. Exposure to the sun’s UV rays can lead to early development of cataracts and increases the risk of developing ocular melanomas. Lack of sleep, excessive screen time and not wearing a proper prescription can also damage your eyes. Like the rest of your body, your eyes have muscles that need time to rest. If you are constantly looking at a screen or not getting enough sleep, you may feel sluggish, strain your eyes and experience headaches or mild discomfort.
Supplements can help prevent vision issues. Although not eye-specific, a general multivitamin is always good for your overall health. In addition to the Cooper Complete Basic One Multivitamin, the Cooper Complete Eye Health supplement is also recommended because it contains several retinoids that help protect against macular degeneration. Omega-3 fatty acids are also recommended because they support overall macular health and can help with dry eye, a common vision issue, by producing better quality tears to keep the surface of the eye well hydrated.
As we age, so do our eyes. After the age of 50, the risk for eye disease increases significantly. Macular degeneration, glaucoma, difficulty focusing on items up close and dry eye become more common. Implementing preventive measures into your daily routine can help to avoid these issues as you age.
Presbyopia, the inability to focus on objects up close, is a natural age-related vision issue. An FDA-approved eye drop, Vuity, was released in December 2021 to help combat this issue. Vuity works to correct blurry, near vision by reducing the pupil size to increase our range of focus. Vuity does not correct for nearsightedness—correction is still needed. “Although not a cure, Vuity could be a great alternative to glasses or contacts for those who struggle to see things up close,” says Dr. Samin. This prescription eye drop can be sampled at Cooper Clinic.
Our eyes relate to our overall health
“Eye health can often be used as a measure of our general health,” says Dr. Samin. Signs of stroke, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, brain tumors and more can be identified through a comprehensive eye exam. A lot of these symptoms can be detected when looking at the internal health of the eye. Optomap retinal imaging, one of the instruments used at Cooper Clinic, takes an image of the blood vessels in the back of the eye. These blood vessels can indicate signs of diabetes, blockages from high cholesterol and vessel changes from high blood pressure. Early signs of these diseases can be seen in the retina, making the screening critical to your health and well-being.
For a general exam, dilation may not be needed as the retinal camera can show all that is needed. However, if an issue is detected on retinal imaging, dilation gives a more in-depth look. “Although dilation isn’t always necessary, it is still a useful tool when examining the eyes since it allows us to look at the internal part of the eye. Using retinal imaging and dilation, when necessary, provides the ability to detect a large range of eye issues that can be treated and managed,” says Dr. Samin.
Patients who are diabetic tend to have high blood sugar, which can weaken the blood vessel walls. When the eyes’ blood vessels become weak, they can leak blood into the tissue and cause swelling. This is known as diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to vision loss. With diabetic retinopathy, the earlier it is detected, the lower the risk of vision loss. Dr. Samin notes “one thing to keep in mind about diabetic retinopathy is that your risk of this condition is more dependent on how long you’ve been diabetic, not necessarily how severe your diabetes is. Someone who has had their diabetes under control for 15 years can have more damage than someone who is newly diagnosed and doesn’t have it under control.” It is especially important for patients with diabetes to schedule a comprehensive eye exam annually.
Things to remember
An annual eye exam is important to detect vision issues early on. Not all vision issues can be corrected with glasses or contacts so early detection is vital to ensuring your eyes stay healthy and vision stays clear. Some vision issues may require treatment or may be irreversible which is why eye health goes beyond being able to see clearly. Good nutrition, using protection against sun exposure and including supplements in your diet are all preventive steps you can take to keep your eyes healthy.
Cooper Clinic offers comprehensive eye care services—including an annual exam—as part of its preventive exam or a stand-alone service. To learn more about Cooper Clinic preventive exams and how an annual exam can help you manage and improve your health, visit cooper-clinic.com or call 866.906.2667.