Employee & Community Health

Open your eyes to good eye care

3/18/2019 by Dr. Suzette Barakat

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Take good care of your health, and you'll be taking good care of your eyes, too. By optimizing your health you can help prevent eye diseases, including: 

  • Macular degeneration. Thinning of the macula, which is part of the retina responsible for clear vision in your direct line of sight, causes loss of this central vision. 
  • Cataracts. The lens in the eye becomes cloudy, leading to blurry or double-vision, light sensitivity and loss of night vision. 
  • Glaucoma. Abnormally high pressure in the eye damages the optic nerve. 
  • Diabetic retinopathy. Uncontrolled high blood sugar from diabetes can damage blood vessels in the retina and eventually lead to blindness. 

Foster good eye health throughout your life by: 

  • Not smoking. Smoking — and even second-hand smoke — can increase your risk for major eye disorders, such as macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataracts. 
  • Eating a healthy diet. A diet that's rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, shellfish, fatty fish like salmon, and whole grains provides the nutrients that promote eye health. And that includes carrots (Vitamin A)!
  • Shielding them from the sun. The sun's UV rays can damage your eyes, leading to cataracts and macular degeneration. Choose sunglasses for the whole family that block 99-100% of UV light. 
  • Exercising. It's one more element in all-round good health. 

Mark your calendar for routine eye exams and screenings, which not only evaluate your vision, but can also catch any diseases early, leading to better and more successful treatment. We recommend that adults undergo a complete eye exam: 

  • Every five to 10 years in your 20s and 30s
  • Every two to four years from 40 to 54
  • Every one to three years from 55 to 64
  • Every one to two years after age 65
  • Earlier if you have conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes, a family history of eye disease, or experience difficulty reading, seeing road signs, reduced night vision, any blurriness in the visual field, etc. 

The schedule for vision screening for kids includes: 

  • Children 5 years and younger. For children under three, your pediatrician will likely look for the most common eye problems — lazy eye, crossed eyes or turned-out eyes. They could undergo a more-comprehensive eye exam between the ages of three and five. 
  • School-age kids and adolescents. Have your child's vision checked before they enter first grade. If they don't have symptoms and no family history of vision problems, have their vision rechecked every one to two years. 

So who should you see for these screenings and exams? A rule of thumb is to see an optometrist for a routine exam and care and an ophthalmologist for specialty care. 

Dr. Suzette Barakat is an internal medicine physician in Employee and Community Health's (ECH) Division of Community Internal Medicine (CIM) and practices at Mayo Family Clinic Southeast in Rochester. Her interests include preventive medicine, healthy lifestyle, chronic disease management, patient-centered care and mindfulness.