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Friday, March 13, 2009

Protecting My Vision

Green eyes originally uploaded by misstere.

I wrote earlier this month about protecting the hearing I have left. That got me to thinking about how I might protect my vision as well. As my hearing proves less than reliable, I find myself depending more on my eyesight to understand the world around me. I've been a regular at the eye doctor's office since I was nine years old with my first pair of glasses. Was there anything else I could do?

Little did I know when I set out to research this topic, that March has been declared Save Your Vision Month by the American Optometric Association. The Prevent Blindness organization has also designated March as Workplace Eye Wellness Month.

I found lots of helpful information on the internet. On the American Optometric Association (AOA) website I found out what 20/20 vision really means: "If you have 20/20 vision, you can see clearly at 20 feet what should normally be seen at that distance. If you have 20/100 vision, it means that you must be as close as 20 feet to see what a person with normal vision can see at 100 feet." Their website also presents an overview of Good Vision Throughout Life which describes eyesight challenges for different age groups. I especially appreciated reading about age related changes in my own age group category. I find myself cleaning my glasses alot lately when I probably need to get my prescription updated!

Here are 5 basic tips the AOA recommends for all adults:

  1. Eat healthy.

  2. Don't smoke.

  3. Get regular exercise.

  4. Wear sunglasses.

  5. Get periodic eye examinations.

That's pretty much the advice you would expect, right? I'm doing all of that now. I even got my last pair of eyeglasses with "transition" lenses. They darken as soon as I step outdoors. When I wore contact lenses I was always misplacing or breaking my sunglasses. This works better for me.

Online I also came across other common sense advice like be sure to wear protective goggles when working around hazardous chemicals and never stick a sharp object in my eyeball. Pretty standard safety stuff. Could there be more?

There was. I found out that "in the last 20 years, eye health research has linked diet and nutrition with a decreased risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD)." The nutrients recommended are:
  • lutein & zeaxanthin

  • vitamin C

  • vitamin E

  • essential fatty acids

  • zinc

You can read more about this research study here. If you're like me, I was familiar with everything on the list except for lutein and zeaxanthin. Here's a chart that shows food sources for these nutrients.

To benefit my eyes, I should try for 10 mg/day for lutein and 2 mg/day for zeaxanthin. Fortunately I like corn, green beans, spinach, peas, and romaine lettuce. Oranges and eggs I may need to add to my meal plans more often. I doubt I'll be eating kale, collards, or turnip greens any time soon.

Other good things to know.

  • The American Academy of Opthamology now recommends a baseline eye disease screening at age of 40 for those who have had no previous symptoms or risk factors. Source

  • If you can't afford an eye exam, you may be able to get one for free though Eye Care America. Click this link to see if you qualify.

  • You can ask an eye doctor a question at Get Eye Smart.

Here's looking at you for years and years to come!


ms toast burner said...

Hi Sarah,

Interesting post! I was just thinking about this very topic today.

I am learning American Sign Language and one of my teachers is Deaf and also has vision problems. She can still see but has very tunnelled vision... and she says that it might lead to blindness.

She is an amazing woman. Her ability to communicate without being able to hear is amazing and her sense of humour and postive outlook is very humbling. But I do wonder, how would it be to be deaf and blind? It's a frightening thought.

I am fortunate that my vision is excellent. I'm 41 and during my last eye exam (last year) the doc said I have eyes and vision of a teenager... I am now chalking that up to my love of green veggies!

Seriously... stirfry anything in a bit of good soya sauce, garlic and sesame oil... and you have culinary heaven...

But, I have also started wearing saftey goggles in situations that many people might not.... I make jewelry, mosaics and sew... all situations where wires, broken tiles and snapped needles could cause a lot of dammage.

Paranoid? To some, I suspect that I do seem paranoid but I have direct personal experience in losing much of one of my senses... that is enough to want me to protect what I have left of the rest.

So Sarah, eat your greens...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for such a useful and interesting post. I am frightened to death of losing my eyesight. I almost went blind 4 years ago and a life with no sight or hearing is no life, trust me. The story is at
Please look after your eyes, they're so important and the world is beautiful :)

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Ms. Toast Burner,
Like you, I have recently met a teacher who is legally blind and has really opened my eyes to the challenge of living with limited vision.
That's wonderful that your eyesight is so excellent. I'm envious.
I have a strong paranoid streak myself and am naturally cautious so I say keep protecting your eyes!
Thanks for your comment!

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Thank you funny old life, I'm going to read your post now.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

I'm back. Funny old life's post is very moving. How scary it would be to lose your vision! I've also thought about surgery to correct my vision but have always shied away from it. The risk (for me) is too great!

Amy Kay said...

Hi Sarah!
I really enjoyed this post. A couple of years ago I acually injured my right eye on a peice of plastic and it caused me to have recurrent erosion of the cornea. It scared me beyond belief, becuase my ablity to funciton was horrid. I was able to have a full recovery due to 2 eye doctors and 1 specialist in Atlanta. Since then I have been a huge believer in PROTECT THE EYES! The info you found is great. Thanks!

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Thanks for sharing your story, AmyKay. I'm so glad you recovered!