The most common New Year’s resolution is to stay fit and healthy. Does that include fit and healthy eyes? I bet you never thought about your eyes needing to be fit and healthy. As we discussed in our last blog post, our vision is vital. How are we supposed to take care of our eyes and vision? The easiest start to maintaining excellent eye health is a comprehensive eye examination. This simple task can have both sight and life-saving implications. Yet one striking fact remains: people continue to take their eyesight for granted.
Many people believe that as long as they can “see fine” or as long as their children pass a screening with an eye chart, their eyes must be fine. That is one of the greatest myths in society today. The eyes are considered to be two of the most complex organs of the body. With all those working parts, it’s should be no surprise that nearly half of the brain is dedicated to vision. The eyes are directly connected to the brain via the optic nerves. These cranial nerve connections mean that we cannot, in our current medical technology, transplant an entire eye. Think about that for a moment, we can transplant lungs, kidneys, hearts and livers, but not our eyes. Why is it then that we don’t take better, more regular care of them? One reason is that very few eye diseases have outward “seeable” symptoms.
The eyes can suffer considerable silent damage from diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. There are many cases where an optometrist has been able to see signs of these diseases before patients even go to their primary care doctor for a diagnosis. Why is that? The examples of diseases that I have given all have one thing in common: they are vascular diseases. The eyes have some of the tiniest and finest networks of blood vessels in the entire body. This makes them more susceptible to these diseases and can thus be used as early indicators that something is wrong. Left untreated, the impact on these tiny blood vessels can lead to permanent vision loss.
In children’s vision, nothing can substitute for a comprehensive eye exam. The most important reason: children, especially young children, don’t know what “normal” vision is supposed to look and feel like. They might not know what 20/20 vision looks like. They don’t know that words on a page are not supposed to blurry, or jump around. Pediatric and school screenings evaluate for clarity of vision and major eye turns and defects. While well-meaning, they are often performed by untrained volunteers and technicians. They miss the learning-related vision problems that can impact schoolwork. The American Optometric Association has estimated that nearly 75% of children with vision problems are not caught in a screening setting. Even more disturbing, the American Optometric Association found that nearly two-thirds of children found to have problems in school screenings do not obtain the evaluation and care that they need.
While these facts may be jarring, they can all be lessened. The effects of these conditions can even be prevented. A comprehensive eye examination can be one of the best things you can do for your health. Make great vision your New Year’s resolution. Is there something holding you back? Is it time? Is it money? Neither one of those should be a barrier to good eye care. We’ll discuss both of these potential roadblocks in my next blog post. Until then, don’t hesitate to call our office where our friendly staff can help schedule an appointment for you. They can help answer your questions. It could just save your sight-or life.