Eye Care

By Sara Hodon

Let’s face it—most of us take our vision for granted.

Sunglasses look cool, but most of us don’t think about the fact that they also protect our eyes against the sun’s harmful UV rays. Eye exams may be just another item to fit into the jam-packed household calendar but these visits can help to detect a number of problems before they become more serious. Many people wait to call their eye care professional until after the fine print has started getting finer, or their child has been having trouble seeing letters on the blackboard for months.

Most children see an eye doctor when they are toddlers and entering kindergarten. Dr. Suzanne Evano Hauck of Blink Optical, Allentown, suggests that parents  be consistent with scheduling checkups when the child enters grade school and no longer receives these annual visits. “I would definitely recommend bringing a child in for an exam around first grade,” she says. “Once they move into 2nd and 3rd grade, their schoolwork gets more challenging. They have to read off of the board more to copy things, and this is when many of the most common childhood eye problems are discovered.” Many of Evano Hauck’s younger patients are diagnosed with myopia, or nearsightedness, which makes it difficult to read from a distance. “Usually the teachers pick up on it,” Evano Hauck says. Prescription glasses for school and other close work typically help this problem.

Just like the rest of their body, a person’s vision changes over time. Unfortunately, taking the advice of an old wives’ tale and eating a bushel of carrots each day will not keep our eyesight in perfect condition. Dr. Steven Demko of Visionnaires in Easton says that simply staying healthy and maintaining overall wellness can help to keep our eyes in good shape, too. As an added boost, a daily multivitamin (especially for those over 40 years old) or a high quality fish oil supplement can help to minimize dry eye, particularly in women.

Adults also need to be aware of other conditions that can develop as part of the natural aging process. Evano Hauck says that besides dry eye, she sees many patients with glaucoma and cataracts. All three are highly detectable, and glaucoma checks are a regular part of a routine exam in Evano Hauck’s office. “Glaucoma occurs when the pressure in the eye is too high,” she says. “There are no symptoms, but a person will start to lose their ‘side vision’. Many times they think it’s a natural part of aging and don’t ask to be tested.”  Glaucoma progresses slowly, she says, and eye care professionals use a number of different exams to detect it in patients. A non-contact tonometry, or NCT, is one of the most widely used exams where a small puff of smoke is blown into the person’s eye to test the pressure.

A cataract develops when the lens inside the eye gets cloudy. A surgeon can remove the cloudy lens and replace it with an implant. Although cataract surgery is most closely associated with the 65 and over set, a cataract can develop at any age. Demko says that he has had many patients under 60 who opt for this surgery. Thanks to advancements in vision technology, a patient can have a prescription bifocal lens implanted that would eliminate their need for reading glasses.

The search for perfect vision has led to a huge uptick in LASIK eye surgery. In this procedure, a laser changes the shape of the eye’s cornea and restores the patient’s vision to perfect 20/20—to a point. “A patient over 50 that gets LASIK will still need reading glasses,” Demko says. “It will only correct distance. I think it’s much better for someone under 40.”

Even if LASIK surgery isn’t quite in your household budget, a little preventative care can go a long way toward maintaining good eyesight. Simple maintenance and routine exams are the best protection against long-term vision problems.

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