Health & Wellness

I Can See Clearly Now Regular eye exams can catch serious issues early on, helping you avoid permanent vision damage.

by Amanda Jean Elliott

For many people the future is looking less and less clear. It’s called presbyopia, and it’s likely going to happen to anyone who reaches the age of 40. It’s that squinting to read what was once clear, it’s grabbing those little reading glasses at the grocery store checkout and it’s all fairly normal. The biggest issue, however, in vision likely comes from things we never see coming.

“Cheaters can provide relief for presbyopia, which is a condition we all develop at about age 40. This is when the lens inside of the eye can no longer help us focus at items up close,” says Dr. Ryan Cazares, the therapeutic optometrist at Scott Eye Care. “Cheaters most likely will not cause long term issues, but it’s best to seek advice from an eye care professional, because these are not custom made for anyone’s eyes and do not take into account other corrective problems such as nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism.”

Dr. David H. Fisher Jr., an optometrist at The Vision Clinic, agrees that wearing cheaters isn’t going to cause permanent damage.

“If you wear over-the-counter glasses, it’s not going to make your vision worse — that just happens on its own,” Fisher says. “Reading in the dark, standing too close to the television, strain doesn’t do permanent damage.”

Fisher and Cazares both say whether it’s important to have regular eye exams throughout your life, regardless of whether you have any symptoms or problems — every two years for most people; for those with a history of eye disease or other issues, it’s important to go every year. They said skipping the eye exam means you’re missing a chance to catch serious eye issues that don’t impact vision until it’s too late.

“You only get two eyes. Glaucoma is something you don’t feel,” Fisher says. “There are 3 to 5 million people who have glaucoma and don’t know it because they aren’t getting checked regularly, and it can lead to blindness. The sooner you get in touch with a patient with glaucoma the better because when you lose vision because of that you don’t get it back.”

In addition to glaucoma, Fisher says those with a family history of macular degeneration are at a much higher risk if their parents have it.

“There are some things that are inevitable, but some things to lessen the effects,” says Fisher. Overexposure to the sun and smoking, for example, can increase the likelihood of certain cataracts.

Cazares advises people who work outdoors to wear sunglasses with UV protection and those who work where near vision is frequent should take breaks often. Fisher says looking away from your screen and simply staring out the window for three to four minutes is effective to reduce eye strain.

“Don’t take a break from working and look at your phone,” Fisher says.

In fact, technology, which many surmise may be causing vision damage, is actually bringing to light existing problems in some cases rather than causing them.

“We do see eye fatigue and spasms more as schools are moving into computer-driven everything,” Fisher says, and Cazares notes an increase in nearsightedness in children and teens in recent years.

“The exact cause of this is unknown; however, some hypothesize that greater near demands on the eyes (phones, tablets, reading, computers) may be the cause,” Cazares says, before noting the benefits of technology on the eyes as well. “Certainly, more studies and advances in technology are allowing us to better care for dry eye syndrome, glaucoma, and other various diseases such as keratoconus [the constant changing of the shape of the cornea] and macular degeneration [the deterioration of the central vision].”