Children's Eye Care

Prevent Vision Loss

Things your ophthalmologist wants you to stop doing to prevent vision loss

Dr Maneck Nicholson, Consultant Ophthalmologist, L V Prasad Eye Institute, Visakhapatnam

There are some things about your eyes that you must know.

Now everyone thinks that the eyesight they have is the worst! But in fact, far and near sightedness is quite common and whatever be the problem, we are well equipped to deal with it either with glasses, contact lenses or even surgery. A couple of things one should remember about glasses is that they are expensive and delicate, and cleaning them with tissue or toilet paper can scratch the surface, necessitating early change. It would be better to clean them with something smooth like a tie or sari or a microfiber lint free cloth. A tip for contact lens wearers is that the lenses should never be worn through the night, even the extended wear contact lenses. This greatly reduces the risk of complications such as infection which can be sight threatening. Always wash the hands with soap and water before inserting or removing the lenses and ensure that the lens case is cleaned with soap and water and air dried frequently.

Avoid working on a computer for prolonged periods of time as this can cause dryness of the eyes and eye strain. A useful tip is to take a break every 5 minutes, blink a couple of times and look away from the screen.

Stop eating junk food and don't be a couch potato… other words, exercise well and eat a healthy balanced diet. All of this can help reduce eye disease. Look out for a positive family history of certain heritable diseases as diabetes and hypertension can affect the eyes too. Hence it is necessary to get an eye checkup, particularly because an early examination can limit any vision loss that these diseases may cause.

Certain habits such as smoking and drinking can cause serious damage to the eyes. They can increase the risk of macular degeneration (damage to the most sensitive part of the nerve in the eye affecting central vision) and also cause damage to the optic nerve. These are irreversible causes of blindness.

Disregarding regular eye check-ups beyond a certain age is not a good idea particularly since after 40, near vision starts failing necessitating the use of reading glasses, a condition we call presbyopia. However glaucoma, a disease caused by damage to the optic nerve due to a rise in pressure within the eye, is common after 40. It may occur in the young as well but is more common with an increase in age. This disease is known as the ‘sneak thief of sight’ resulting in painless progressive decrease in the peripheral vision. Some simple tests can clinch the diagnosis and treatment is usually in the form of eye drops to lower the intraocular pressure. Long term use of medication can sometimes cause stinging and a useful tip is to keep the eye drops refrigerated as that can cause them to sting less. Cataract is another condition which commonly occurs with an increase in age though there are other factors which are implicated as well. The natural transparent lens gradually becomes opaque resulting in cataract and blurred vision. There is nothing we can do to prevent this as it is most often genetic. Talking to an eye surgeon usually helps in taking a decision about surgery. With advances in technology and sophisticated instrumentation, removal of the cataract with insertion of a synthetic intraocular lens is a fairly simple and quick process and doesn’t require the cataract to mature as was the case in the past.

Don’t be lazy about ‘lazy eye’. This condition known as squint occurs in children when the eyes are not aligned correctly and can result in drop in vision if not assessed and corrected on time. Children who can’t see the writing on the blackboard in school or screw up their eyes to watch television may need glasses and hence an eye check up is necessary. Glasses in kids are subject to frequent change so don’t fret if they do, kids grow and so do their eyes!

Don’t ignore any untoward symptoms such as double vision, sudden loss of vision, glare, a flash of light or sudden increase in floating objects in front of your eyes is necessary and warrants an immediate eye examination. The eyes are known to be a window to a host of diseases in the body. The eyes can show signs of medical conditions such as cancer, bleeding disorders, thyroid, HIV/AIDS, as well as other neurological and rheumatologic diseases.

All in all eating healthy, getting regular eye checkups and recognizing early symptoms of eye disease can help prevent vision loss.