Weekly Columns

The Western Arkansas Vision Education Foundation is hosting its 21st Annual Spring Optometric Physician Education Conference this month and I’ll be there to deliver an update on health care issues in Washington.

This conference is perfectly timed as March is Save Your Vision Month, which is aimed at promoting the importance of regular and comprehensive eye care. 

The campaign focuses on healthy eyesight and vision in the 21st century, a time where adults spend five to seven hours per day using computers, smartphones, tables, or other handheld electronic devices that put stress and tension on our eyes. Eye strain from technology, along with ultraviolet exposure and poor nutrition, are among the leading contributors to vision troubles.  

The American Academy of Ophthalmology estimates that 43 million Americans will be at risk for significant vision loss or blindness from age-related eye diseases, such as cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and macular degeneration by 2020. This represents an increase of more than 50 percent of the current number of Americans suffering from these diseases.

As an optometrist by trade, I can attest that many of these conditions possibly can be avoided by taking some simple preventive steps. This is important information not just for adults, but for children as well. A recent report from the American Optometric Association (AOA) stated that 83 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 17 estimates they use devices for three or more hours each day.  It’s no mystery why 57 percent of people have experienced eye strain or vision problems as a direct result of using technology.

The American Optometric Association provides very useful information regarding useful tips for protecting your vision. The AOA gives three simple ways to protect your vision.

  • Give your eyes a break
    • Take a 20-second break every 20 minutes and view something 20 feet away.
  • Be a savvy shopper
    • Beware of buying eyeglasses online.  Doing so can often cost more time and money in the long run.
  • Skip shortcuts
    • There’s no substitute for a yearly eye exam.  Vision applications can give inaccurate information. 

Protecting your eyes from the elements is another key to protecting your vision for the long term. Exposing your eyes to sunlight for long periods of time can lead to corneal damage and retinal damage; wearing sunglasses outside is essential, even on a cloudy day. Also, consuming colorful fruits and vegetables provide nutrients that have been discovered to help improve your eye health.

A baseline eye exam can prevent any current or oncoming eye diseases. If you are over the age of 40 and haven’t had a recent eye disease screening, I encourage you to set one up.  It is at this age when early signs of eye disease and changes in vision often first occur.

Think of eye exams as another tool in your prevention medicine toolbox, just like dental cleanings and annual check-ups with your primary care physician. While we take it for granted, vision is imperative to our everyday livelihoods. You’ll be glad you took these extra steps in the long run.