Herman Melville once said, “The eyes are the gateway to the soul.” I happen to agree. I did not know how precious my vision was until it was partially taken away from me. Over the past few years, the vision in my right eye was becoming progressively cloudier. Since my eye pressures were within normal limits, cataract formation seemed to be the possible cause. When the situation worsened, an ophthalmologist performed extensive testing. Although a small cataract was discovered, it was not my main problem. I was diagnosed with severe glaucoma in my right eye and the onset of glaucoma in my left eye. Not all cases of glaucoma can be diagnosed with pressures alone. I was devastated because this situation could have been prevented had it been caught early enough. My loss of sight is permanent.
I feel blessed to have the sight I do have. With proper care and treatment in maintaining my vision, I look forward to a bright future.
As people age, so do their eyes. It has been said that a person fears losing her or his eyesight more than the loss of any other sense. Taking good care of your eyes will help to ensure that your vision remains the best it can be. Certainly your eyes require as much care as the rest of your body if they are to work well for you. Walk around in a dark room (carefully) in order to imagine what it would be like to live without sight. Many elders are doing just that. Glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts and “Dry Eye Syndrome” are a few of the most common conditions experienced by our senior citizens. Many of these problems can be avoided or successfully treated with proper care.
A few general tips for eye care as you age include the following recommendations:
-Eat a proper diet. Along with the rest of your body, your eyes will only work well if they have the right nutrition. Your diet plays a very important role in preventing many diseases of the eye. It has been found that maintaining proper weight and controlling cholesterol and blood pressure are significant factors which help you to preserve good vision. Read food labels. Vitamin A, C and E are the three most essential ingredients in your diet for healthy eyes. Indeed, following a balanced diet will give you the necessary nutrition for your eyes. If, for some reason, you feel your diet is not complete, consult your doctor regarding the need for supplements.
-Stop smoking. Smoke is irritating to the eyes and can cause dry eye syndrome. Also, be aware of the dangers of second-hand smoke.
-Wear sunglasses. It is a necessity for good eye care. Ultraviolet rays from the sun can cause serious damage to our eyes including cataracts and macular degeneration. Purchasing sunglasses that will give you proper protection is most important. A visit to your eye care professional will help you make the appropriate choice.
-Wear safety glasses. Your eyes need to be protected when working outside, performing activities which could endanger your eyes. Debris scattered by lawnmowers, trimmers and saws can do permanent damage to your eyes. Injuries to your eyes can be caused by walking into a low-hanging tree branch, hitting an eye during a fall, and exposure to fumes and splashes from chemicals used in gardening or equipment maintenance. You should also wear safety glasses when playing a sport which puts you at risk for eye injury.
-Get medical care when necessary. There are certain situations that require professional evaluation and treatment. A strike to the eye which causes swelling and discoloration, a foreign object that cannot be easily removed by flushing with clean water, or a chemical splash to the eye are physical traumas which would require professional examination.
-Rest your eyes. While reading, watching television or working on the computer, take frequent breaks to rest your eyes. Reading or working with poor lighting can cause eye strain. Eye strain can damage the eyes.
For many years, working at the Farrar Home, I have witnessed a number of residents struggle with poor vision and the loss of vision. I now have greater empathy for them. I have seen the concern and careful treatment they give their eyes. They often see their eye doctors as frequently as they do their primary care physicians. They know the importance of preserving good vision. Many have been able to maintain the sight they have with proper care and treatment.
Take it from me. Never take your eyes for granted. If you are having any problems with your vision or your eyes, make sure you schedule an appointment with an eye care specialist. For people under the age of 65, a comprehensive eye exam is recommended every 2-3 years. Over the age of 65, people should have annual eye exams as part of their routine eye care. It is even more important for people with diabetes as they are prone to diseases of the eye. All of our senses diminish slowly over time. Always be aware that in order to make our lives the best they can be, we need to do all we can to preserve our overall health and well being.