By Hayley M. McCoy
It is hard to imagine enjoying Central Oregon without being able to appreciate the beautiful views, like the Three Sisters Skyline, Ponderosa Pines forest on the Cascade Lakes Highway or fishing one of our beautiful rivers at sunset. Yet, we don’t always take the necessary proactive steps to preserve our vision. Between our busy schedules, being uncomfortable with dilation, or feeling paralysis at the “1 or 2”, “3 or 4” when it shockingly all looks the same, there can be many obstacles to visiting the eye doctor. The greatest challenge may be the false sense of security that if our vision seems fine, our eye health must be. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. Some of the most common causes of vision loss, including diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and macular degeneration often do not have symptoms early in the disease.
There is no time like the present to start taking your eye health seriously. Below are a few tips to help keep your eyes healthy.
1. Wear UV protection outside. Whether it is sunglasses or a brimmed hat, protecting your eyes from UV damage may help slow cataracts and prevent macular degeneration.
2. Eat a healthy diet rich in colorful vegetables and foods rich in antioxidants and omega-3s; these are good for healthy tears and retinal health. If you are not sure you’re getting the nutrients you need, consider supplementing with a multivitamin that contains Lutein and/or Zeaxanthin.
3. Exercise to lower your risk of systemic diseases that can affect the eyes.
4. Do not smoke, as this can increase your risk of retinal disease like macular degeneration.
5. Get quality sleep to promote good overall health. To aid in healthy sleep patterns, avoid excessive screen time before bed, or consider using blue light blocking glasses when you do.
6. Limit screen time. If your work and life demand it, take frequent breaks, and try to counterbalance by getting at least a couple hours of natural lighting during the day. Especially at a young age, increased screen time can lead to increased near-sightedness.
7. Be proactive with dry eyes. Dry eye is very common in our dry climate and there are many other factors that contribute. We commonly ignore symptoms until they are unbearable, but this can make it harder to manage once you decide to tackle it. Instead, be proactive in keeping the eyes lubricated with artificial tears at the first sign of gritty, irritated eyes, but steer clear of “red eye” drops, which prevent your eyes from naturally recovering from whatever is causing the irritation in the first place.
8. See a primary care physician to monitor systemic health. The eyes are part of a whole body system which can be affected by conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, thyroid disease, and autoimmune conditions.
9. Get regular eye exams, including regular dilation. Many serious eye diseases do not have symptoms early on but can devastate vision later. Without a proper dilated eye exam, many things can be missed. Your eyecare provider can instruct you on how often you should be dilated based on your age and the health of your eyes.
“Whatever your age or health status, having regular eye exams can help protect your eyes and overall health,” says Summit Medical Group Oregon ophthalmologist Brian P. Desmond, MD. As the largest eye care medical group in Central Oregon, Summit Medical Group offers the most complete range of services and expertise this side of the mountains. Our “routine” eye exams are anything but routine. Thorough and precise, they identify and treat today’s issues and tomorrow’s potential problems.
Hayley McCoy, OD Graduated from Pacific University College of Optometry and also obtained a Bachelor of Science in Zoology at Weber State University. Dr. McCoy believes vision is a fundamental tool that influences the way we view and experience the world.