Eye Health Awareness

  • BY Lainie Petersen

When did you last get your eyes checked?

I ask the question because while many people are quite diligent about getting their blood pressure or cholesterol checked, they often can’t tell you when they last had their eyes examined. Unfortunately, neglecting your eye health often has serious consequences not only for your vision, but for the rest of you as well.

The Problem: Your Eyes Do Double Duty + Broad Symptoms

My eye doctor once commented to me that the reason why so many people don’t bother to get their eyes checked is that we have two eyes. When one isn’t working properly, the other steps up and takes on some of the other’s responsibilities.

Practically speaking, this means that you may be slow to self-detect vision or eye health problems. In addition, you may attribute symptoms of eye and vision problems (like headaches) to stress or sinus problems, further delaying proper diagnosis and treatment.

The Consequences of Poor Vision

Contrary to popular belief, you likely won’t damage your eyesight by not wearing glasses. But you can cause yourself a fair amount of misery in the process. People with uncorrected vision often suffer from eye strain, a condition that causes headaches, eye dryness and muscle tension in the neck and shoulders. If this isn’t bad enough, you’ll also find that it is hard to read or see objects and people properly.

Poor vision can also be dangerous, particularly if you are driving or operating machinery, but also just in the course of everyday life. If you can’t see where you are going, or where other people and things are, you are at greater risk for injury.

Beyond Vision

Eye exams can also help identify other health conditions, such as diabetes and eye cancer. The negative effects of both conditions can be mitigated with early detection, so get that eye exam even if you aren’t yet having vision problems.

What You Can Do

If you’re convinced about the need to proactively care for your eyes, the first thing you should do is get an eye exam. Adults should generally have their eyes examined every two years, though if you have problems with your eyes, or other health conditions, ask your eye doctor about how often you should schedule an exam.

Many school districts regularly offer eye exams to their students, but it’s still wise to be on the lookout for potential vision problems in your children. If your child is too young to tell you that he or she is having problems seeing things, watch for signs of eye strains such as redness or frequent eye rubbing.

Don’t let a lack of funds keep you from getting quality eye care. Community health centers in your area often operate on a sliding scale, as do clinics at medical schools and schools of optometry. Besides, the cost of getting an eye exam now can keep you from having to cope with the costs of a more serious health or vision problem later.

In addition to preventative eye care, protecting your eyes against injury is also important. Wear UV coated glasses and sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun. Always don protective goggles when there is a risk of eye injury: This includes participating in hobbies such as jewelry making or woodworking, where there is a chance of wood splinters or wire fragments getting into your eyes.