If you’re over the age of 40, chances are you now use reading glasses or bifocals to improve the clarity of your vision. This is a natural consequence of aging as the eyes’ focusing muscles become weaker and other changes occur in the eyes. With advancing age, however, a person’s vision can also be subject to serious diseases that may cause visual loss if not treated early enough.
One of these eye diseases is senile macular degeneration or SMD. SMD attacks a part of the eye known as the macula, located in the retina at the back of the eye. The macula is a light-sensing nerve tissue that lines the inside of the eyes. It makes it possible for you to see an object in detail. One of the symptoms of SMD is loss of the ability to read and see objects clearly.
The need to detect eye problems and diseases as early as possible is one of the best reasons why you should have regular eye exams. If you haven’t had an eye exam recently, make an appointment with your eye doctor now.
If you’ve never worn glasses before but are experiencing symptoms that suggest you might need them, you should have your eyes examined. Your eyes are always changing, and when you have a vision problem these changes become quite noticeable. For instance, if you’ve been suffering from headaches associated with eye strain, that’s a warning signal.
Other warning signs include blurred vision, a pain of any kind in the eye, distorted vision, and the habit of squinting when you have difficulty seeing something. Other signs that indicate you should waste no time in having your eyes examined are irritation and fatigue. Whatever your job happens to be, your ability to see well is important. So is your ability to see clearly when you’re relaxing or working at home or enjoying some of your favorite recreations.
Sight is precious, and the ability to see well should be protected. If you have any symptoms that suggest you should have your eyes examined to find out if you need glasses, make an appointment with your eye doctor now.
Sometimes the information coming in through the eyes does not get through quickly enough, or is unreliable when it reaches the brain. It happens in offices, in factories, in schools, at home. It has been known to cause accidents, dangerous mistakes, and even learning difficulties in school children.
Your optometrist, after a thorough examination, can provide proper lenses to balance the convergence and focusing mechanisms and to rearrange the brain’s matching process. Thus, your intelligence actually becomes greater, because the experience becomes accurate, and learning easier, since the incoming information is more reliable.
These lenses also, through reflex action, can affect other bodily functions. Sometimes patients complain, “These lenses I’ve been wearing make me sick to my stomach.”
On the other hand, many patients are amazed that “just a pair of glasses” often relieves nervous tension and other seemingly unrelated ailments.
Macular degeneration is fairly common among the elderly. The macula is the portion of the retina responsible for clear, sharp, central vision. Occasionally, the waste products of some of the cells in the macula are not removed as they normally are. Instead, they just clump together, so that when you look directly at an object, you can’t see it clearly.
It’s as though you had a piece of dirt on a camera film. Light just can’t reach the film through the dirt to give a clear picture. However, your side (peripheral) vision is not affected. It doesn’t matter how strong a lens we put in front of these eyes. If the light can’t reach the macula, you’re not going to see what you’re looking at very clearly.
So, if you see a dark spot in the center of your visual field, it would be wise to have a thorough eye examination. If caught early enough, those dead cells in the macula can be treated with a laser beam and vision often improved.
The sky is blue, the grass is green, the sun a burning yellow, but why? We know that white light is really a composite of the colors orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. The retina, which receives the light, contains three types of color sensors called red, green and blue cones. The red cones respond to the longer wave-lengths of light, the green cones to the middle range, and the blue cones to the short wave-lengths.
The brain has to juggle all of this different wave-length information and funnel it through the retina’s 5 million cones before we get a precisely painted picture of what our eyes have seen. This constantly changing stream of images from the world to our mind gives patterns of color at speed of light.
This amazing visual system works reliably in all but a tiny percent of the American population. When it does not, the result is color blindness.
The National Cancer Institute states that exposure to strong sunlight, particularly in early childhood, may increase the risk of intraocular malignant melanoma (eye cancer). This disease affects about 2,000 people each year and can be fatal if left untreated.
Being born in the south, having blue eyes, indulging in sun bathing and not wearing sunglasses all appear to increase the risk. Being born in the south increases the risk three-fold. Blue-eyed people had the highest risk. Brown-eyed people were 60% less likely to develop the disease.
Some practical advice: Always shield your youngster’s eyes from the sun with hat or sunglasses. By filtering out the ultra-violet light rays, they also help prevent night blindness. As we get older, the crystalline lens of the eye helps in filtering out these harmful rays. Heed the advice of these experts and avoid undue exposure to sunlight unless you have adequate eye protection.
Many people have more difficulty seeing clearly at night than they should. This condition is called Nyctalopia in which the retina does not regenerate a pigment called visual purple. This purplish-red pigment prevents night blindness but can become bleached out when the eyes are exposed to strong sunlight or if the retina is deficient in vitamin A.
This condition should not be confused with the normal reduction of vision we all experience at night. The reason for this is that as the light gets less, the pupil (that little hole in the center of the eye) opens wider to allow more light to enter. As photographers know, the smaller the aperture, the sharper the picture. So when the pupil gets larger, the “picture” is not quite as sharp.
Not sure? Your optometrist can measure your dark adaptation and determine if you have night blindness. He may prescribe sunglasses to block out infrared rays of the sun or may suggest an increase of vitamin A in your diet.
The normal eye is kept moist by a thin film of tears on its surface. Most of these tears are produced by glands under the upper lid and are spread across the cornea with each blink. If tear production is reduced for any of a variety of reasons, you will suffer symptoms of hot, burning, dry eyes. In very severe cases, the cornea may dry, become cloudy and affect your sight.
This is one of the conditions which your optometrist looks for during an eye examination. If indicated, he can perform a simple test to determine the amount of tear fluid you have. If the amount is moderately low, you can gain comfort by using drops of artificial tears. For a critical shortage, a soft contact lens may be indicated to keep the eye moist.
A dry eye can also result if the tear production is normal, but the blink reflex is missing. When this occurs, tears cannot be spread across the eye.
An optometrist does much more than prescribe vision correction for eyes; he or she checks to see that the eyes themselves are functioning properly.