Promoting preventative eyecare

Impaired vision is nothing to be ashamed of.

More than 11 million Americans have common vision problems that can be corrected with the use of prescriptive eye wear such as glasses or contact lenses.

Instead of squinting to read road signs or tolerating characters on television who appear more than a little fuzzy, take control and visit an eye doctor. Not only will you fix the immediate problem, you'll learn how to take long-term care of your eyes and perhaps prevent future problems.

Dr. Diana Young, an optometrist at Sequim Vision Clinic, recommends visiting the eye doctor once a year from infancy.

"You get used to your own eyes and don't always realize there's a problem," Young said. "But poor vision can affect your health, mood and even your ability to learn - a common problem with children."

Wearing safety goggles at work and in dangerous situations is one of the most important preventive measures a person can take regarding eye care.

"It's important to take good care of and protect your eyes," Young said. "Remember: They're the only ones you have."

Young's co-worker Dr. Neil Cays recalls a patient who didn't like wearing safety goggles while playing racquetball. During a tournament where safety eye wear was required, the patient removed the lenses and wore only the frames to give the appearance of wearing safety goggles without fogging his vision.

Early in the game, the man was hit in the eye with his partner's racket handle. Due to excessive damage and bleeding, the man had to have his eye removed.

It's also important to see a doctor immediately if you get a foreign object - such as a piece of wood or metal - in your eye, Young said.

"Don't wait a week to see a doctor. The object is harder to remove with every day that passes and time increases the likeliness of permanent damage."

Eating healthily is equally important for healthy vision.

"The things that aren't good for the rest of your body - like smoking and eating a lot of junk food - aren't good for your eyes either and can accelerate problems," Young said.

Though carrots don't give you perfect night vision, as some parents tell their children to get them to eat their vegetables, they do contribute to overall eye health.

Salmon, garlic, dark chocolate, leafy green vegetables, bilberries (related to blueberries) and eggs also are said to improve vision and keep your eyes - and body - in good health.

Some eye problems can be cured directly through diet.

Dry eyes, for example, are commonly caused by drinking too much caffeine and can be improved significantly by lowering caffeine intake and eating more flax seed, Cays said.

May - which is only weeks away - is Healthy Vision Month.

Celebrate by scheduling a routine eye examination for the entire family, Cays and Young said.

Ashley Miller can be reached at ashleyo@sequim

Refractive errors are conditions where the eye doesn't refract or bend light correctly as it enters the eye. Common refractive errors include:

• Nearsightedness (myopia): Objects up close appear clearly while objects far away are blurry. Light comes to focus in front of the retina instead of on the retina.

• Farsightedness (hyperopia): Distant objects may appear more clearly than objects that are nearer.

• Astigmatism: The eye doesn't focus light evenly onto the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. This can cause images to appear blurry and distorted.

• Presbyopia: An age-related condition where the ability to focus up close becomes more difficult. As the eyes age, the lens can no longer change shape enough to allow the eye to focus on close objects clearly.

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