The newsLINK Group - Keeping Eyes Healthy as They Age

Editorial Library Category: Health Topics: Eye Care Title: Keeping Eyes Healthy as They Age Author: newsLINK Staff Synopsis: According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), age-related diseases will affect more than 43 million people in the U.S. by 2020. In large part, those numbers are a reflection of the aging baby boom generation. Editorial: Keeping Eyes Healthy as They Age 4064 South Highland Drive, Millcreek, Utah 84124 │ │ (v) 801.676.9722 │ (tf) 855.747.4003 │ (f) 801.742.5803 Editorial Library | © The newsLINK Group LLC 1 According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), age-related diseases will affect more than 43 million people in the U.S. by 2020. In large part, those numbers are a reflection of the aging baby boom generation. The baby- boom years started in 1946 and ended about 1964, which means the oldest members hit retirement age in 2011. According to the AARP website, 8,000 people will turn 65 every day for the next 18 years. Inevitably, the resulting effect on U.S. medical care will be profound. How can an eye professional help patients to give themselves the best possible odds for keeping their eyes healthy as they age? The following guidelines might help. Getting the Right Information Gather information to determine whether your patients have a high risk for specific eye diseases. How old is each patient? Anyone over the age of 65 automatically merits additional attention, but if you have any patients who are African- American and more than 40, that deserves attention, too. Does diabetes run in the family? Which patients have diabetes? What about a history of high blood pressure? Encourage patients to get regular physical exams and eye exams. Physical exams can help identify potential problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure. A comprehensive eye exam should take place at least every two years to detect problems such as diabetic retinopathy. New equipment has made it possible to replace pupil dilation with more accurate ways to determine whether someone’s eyes are healthy — and since no dilation is involved, it is much more convenient for the patient as well as for the eye-care professional. The Role of Teaching Teach patients to look for warning signs that could negatively affect their vision. Ask them whether they have a hard time seeing at night, whether their vision is hazy, and whether they have experienced double vision. Do they see flashes of light on a regular basis? Are they conscious of any floaters? What about eye pain and swelling? If they experience any of these problems, encourage them to come to you as soon as they reasonably can. Another thing to teach your patients is to rest their eyes periodically, especially if they spend much time looking at a computer screen every day. Encourage them to blink, and also to use the 20-20-20 rule. In other words, they should be looking away from the computer screen to a point that is about 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds every 20 minutes. Prevention Prevention is always the best approach when it comes to keeping people’s eyes healthy. Nothing on the following list should be a surprise to you, but if your patients will take the list of preventive measures seriously, they will be more likely to keep their eyes healthy. Smoking Macular degeneration and cataracts are both more likely to occur in people who smoke. Find out whether your patients smoke; if they do, encourage them to quit and give them some information about the best (and most painless) ways to accomplish that goal. Exercise Since the risk of macular degeneration can be reduced by as much as 70 percent simply by regular exercise, you should encourage all patients to do exactly that. Even regular walking, which is something just about everyone can manage, is enough to make a difference. Food Diet matters. Teach patients about the merits of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. Eating plenty of fruits, and eating colorful or dark green vegetables, is something that has been shown to lower the risk of developing cataracts. Eating omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of macular degeneration. (Halibut, salmon, and tuna are all excellent choices for omega-3 fatty acids.) High blood pressure and diabetes can contribute to diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma,