While many of you may not be thinking about or dealing with vision loss right now, chances are you may have a family member, say grandma or grandpa, that are dealing with it. For some of our (ahem, me) older moms, vision loss prevention may be on the forefront of your mind as you start staring down those bigger numbers.
This month’s Locally Grown owner, Dr. Svetlana Pikus from The Eye Spot Optical in Libertyville, specializes in low vision and macular degeneration. She has helped hundreds of people regain full or partial vision through her services. While you may not need those services right now, there are some steps you can take to help prevent vision loss and macular problems in the future.
Let’s start with a little biology lesson on how vision works and what exactly is the macula?
Vision depends on light, either natural or artificial. The sunlight or light from a bulb reflects from objects and enters your eye via a clear covering over the front of the eye, the cornea, which does the most of the focusing of light on the retina.
The colored part of the eyes, the iris, opens and closes automatically to let more or less light in. Behind the iris is the lens which does some of the focusing and enables the eye to vary its focus. Thus, an image is formed on the back of the eye on the retina.
The most light-sensitive area of the retina is the macula, near its center where the sharpest vision is achieved. The retina turns the image into tiny electrical impulses that are sent via the optic nerve to the brain where seeing actually occurs. The macula makes up only a small part of the retina, yet it is much more sensitive to detail than the rest of the retina, called the peripheral retina.
Central vision is what you see when you look straight at an object. Peripheral vision, called side vision, is what you see of the area surrounding an object at which you are looking.
The percentage of vision disorders increases with aging process. With the large number of baby boomers, the older population has been increasing dramatically in the United States. The number of Americans with some degree of risk to develop age-related vision impairment from eye diseases like cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy is expected to double within next 25 years.
Tips to Prevent Vision Loss
While some vision loss is inevitable as you age, severe degeneration and loss can be reduced or prevented by doing some things now.
1. Know your history
Aside from knowing if your parents or grandparents wore glasses, find out what other issues they have. Are the being watched for glaucoma? Did grandma have retinopathy? Paying attention to you parents’ eye issues, especially as they age, is important since many macular deceases are genetic. Females of European heritage are at a higher risk of getting macular degeneration, and chances increase up to 50% if one of your parents has the condition. Personally, I am seen once a year to have a full work-up due to a family history of glaucoma. Glaucoma, like many macular diseases, can be stopped in its tracks when found, but once vision is lost it’s generally hard to regain the lost vision.
2. Wearing Sunglasses
Wearing quality sunglasses with UV protection guards your eyes against damage. Remember that sunglasses are not only for the summer, even when it’s cold if the sun is out, the UV rays are out.
3. Limit Screen Time
Spending less time on blue light screens–smart phones, tablets, computer monitors,–will help keep your eyes from straining. Make sure to give your eyes screen breaks. Since screens are becoming such an integral part of our lives, there are things you can do to lessen the effects. For example, wearing prescription glasses with anti-reflective coating that blocks a high percentage of blue light.
4. Stay on top of your eye health
As I mentioned before, I am seen yearly for a full work-up. I get scans beyond the regular vision testing so that as soon as there is a change in my results, we can do something about it. Check in with an experienced retinal eye doctor regularly, especially if you have diabetes or a family history of diabetes, or any other family history of ocular diseases.
Dr. Pikus is a low vision optometrist who is a member of the International Academy of Low Vision Specialists (IALVS). According to Dr. Pikus,
People don’t know that there are doctors who are very experienced in low vision care.
Dr. Pikus happens to be the only IALVS trained optometrist practicing in Illinois. When you are visiting with family over the coming holidays, take the time to learn your history. If your family medical eye history includes vision problems, consider setting up a visit to get a baseline examination.
Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Sunday by appointment.
The Eye Spot Optical is offering 25 percent off of a pair of glasses or prescription sunglasses to Little Lake County readers during the month of November.
Disclosure: The Eye Spot is our featured Locally Grown Business of the Month. This series of features is part of a paid partnership with Little Lake County. Contact melissa.haak[at]littlelakecounty[dot]com if you are interested in featuring your own locally-owned business in our monthly series.