Good Vision

The case for regular eye care

Photograph by Lane Johnson

Your eyesight is an essential component of overall health. Good eyesight supports almost every task. The effects of poor vision are often felt through headaches or eye strain, but these issues can be addressed with a simple eye exam.

Dr. Barbora Bell of Los Gatos Eye Care recommends that people schedule an eye exam at least once a year. Bell says that during an exam, an optometrist may notice conditions related to general health, not just your eyes. Photographs of the retina taken during an exam show the small blood vessels inside the eye. These vessels are often clear indicators of conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and even hormone imbalances in women.

The Vision Learning Center of the nonprofit organization Prevent Blindness America states that either an ophthalmologist or an optometrist can give a patient a comprehensive eye examination. The main difference between the two titles is that an ophthalmologist is also an M.D. who has completed a three-year residency and is licensed to perform surgery.

Parents should schedule eye exam visits for their children just as they plan visits to the pediatrician. “Children should be seen for their first eye exams between 6 and 10 months of age, then on a biannual or annual basis, depending on the health of the eye,” Bell says. It’s especially important for children to visit the eye doctor regularly because they lack a frame of reference to compare their vision to. Without checkups, eye health issues could go unchecked for years.

Dr. Ilene Polhemus, also of Los Gatos Eye Care, states that sun protection is her number one recommendation for children, and that “parents should be good models by exercising UV protection for themselves with sunglasses and the correct eyewear.” Your sunglasses should filter out 100 percent of UV rays (check the label before you buy).

Many people consult an eye doctor because of “computer vision syndrome” or CVS. People who use computers for long hours every day sometimes develop side effects such as dry eyes, headaches, and blurred vision.

“Computer users should try the 20-20-20 rule as a simple way to exercise their eyes and alleviate strain,” Bell says. She suggests that they take a break from the screen every 20 minutes to stare at a point 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Today’s LCD computer screens are much easier on the eyes than older versions, but prolonged use can still cause problems.

A study by the National Eye Institute suggests that what you eat also has a profound impact on your vision. Their recommendations: Eat two servings per day of dark, leafy greens and another two servings of antioxidant-rich foods like blueberries and oranges. Beta-carotene-rich foods like carrots, pumpkin, and squash can also help to keep your eyes healthy. 

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