Keep an eye on your vision

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In order to protect your vision, taking good care of your eyes is vital. However, we take them for granted. With October highlighting eye care awareness, ER24 is urging people to take care of their eyes. Taking care of your eyes is not as difficult as you may think. It simply means just being more attentive to what you are doing and making a few changes to your daily activities. Failure to do so could result in you suffering from serious eye disorders which if not detected and addressed early enough, could have serious implications. Dr Zoran Aleksic, ophthalmologist practicing at Mediclinic Cape Town, said, “Speaking in general, your eyesight must be one of the most precious senses. As with many other diseases, early detection is key. On our continent the leading causes of blindness are cataracts and glaucoma,” he said. Glaucoma is a condition that causes damage to the optic nerve. This in turn results in loss of vision. It is not curable, but can be controlled. Blindness is preventable if glaucoma is diagnosed and treated early enough. A cataract develops when the internal lens of the eye clouds. Light entering the eye is blocked and as a result, a person has difficulty seeing clearly. One of the eye-related problems people often complain about is near-sightedness. Dr Aleksic said near-sightedness is very common. “It is also known as Myopia. It is the inability to see distant objects clearly. It is advisable to correct your near-sightedness on a regular basis with either glasses, contact lenses or laser refractive surgery,” he said. Symptoms Signs or symptoms of eye problems that people should seek medical attention for immediately include:

  • Visual loss.
  • Pain or discomfort.
  • Distortions or the narrowing of your visual field.

Risk factors There are a number of risk factors that could increase your chances of developing an eye disorder. These risk factors according to Dr Aleksic include:

  • Smoking – Smoking has an impact on your eyesight, in some diseases more than others. Smoking affects your blood vessels. This in turn affects your blood flow and as a result, can lead to increased risk of vascular occlusion (blockage of a blood vessel). Smoking has a significant effect in patients with Grave’s/Thyroid Eye Disease.
  • Diabetes – Poorly controlled diabetes can lead to haemorrhages in small blood vessels at the back of the eye as well as early cataract formation.
  • High blood pressure, cholesterol or rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Starring at a computer for prolonged periods of time. This can result in eye strain. It is advisable to take regular breaks by looking at a distant object to relax the accommodation system (capability of the eyes to adjust its focal length). A prescription pair of reading glasses is usually required by people older than 45 due to a condition called presbyopia (where the accommodation system is not flexible anymore).

Dr Aleksic advises people to have at least one comprehensive eye exam done by an ophthalmologist to establish the health of their eyes or to detect any hidden or silent eye conditions that can be treated. He advises at least one general eye examination for children in pre-school. In the case of no abnormalities, one to two eye exams should be done during school years and one to two yearly exams should be done for everyone after the age of 40.

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