A national survey just a few years ago showed that Americans fear losing their vision more than they fear losing a limb, their hearing, their ability to speak or even their memory (Scott et al, JAMA Ophthalmology, October 2016). What do you know about how to take good care of your eyesight?
Dry eye is a very common condition with multiple possible causes. Tears have three different components. One is the liquid water phase. There is also a lipid phase that prevents rapid evaporation. In addition, a mucus phase helps the tears spread evenly over the surface of the eye. It is not just the quantity of tears but also their quality that matters.
What can affect this? In certain conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or acne rosacea, dry eye syndrome signals a systemic problem. Medications such as antihistamines may also cause dry eyes. In addition, people staring at their computer screens or phones may forget to blink. This can quickly dry eyes out as well. Blinking more often can help, as can hot compresses. Our guest shared a home remedy for a stye on the eyelid. Microwave a small potato, wrap it in a dishtowel and hold it to the inflamed spot for 15 or 20 minutes. It stays hot much longer than a wet washcloth does. In addition, a Mediterranean diet rich in fish and olive oil provides dietary support to prevent dry eyes.
Ophthalmologists recognize diabetic retinopathy as the leading cause of visual impairment among working-age Americans. As a result, anyone with diabetes or pre-diabetes should see their eye doctor for regular screening.
Among older adults, the leading cause of vision problems is age-related macular degeneration. In this condition, damage to the center of the retina impairs central vision, making it hard to read, play golf or even recognize friends’ faces.
Pharmacological advances have improved treatment of both age-related macular degeneration and another disease that becomes more common with aging, glaucoma. Glaucoma is often linked to increased pressure in the eye. In this condition, vision begins to fail at the periphery first. Unfortunately, people may not even notice the problem until it becomes fairly severe. That’s why ophthalmologists measure eye pressure at every visit.
You can learn more about how to take good care of your eyesight, reduce the likelihood of nearsightedness in children, use optical coherence tomography (imaging of the retina) to detect early Alzheimer’s disease by listening to the interview. Additionally, the podcast also includes information on vitamins to slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration and a discussion of cataract prevention and treatment.
Peter J. McDonnell, MD, is the director of the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute and professor of ophthalmology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.