The Eyes Have It

Proper eye health is essential for high quality of life

By David L. Podos

An old English proverb says, “The eyes are the windows to the soul.” But, there’s even a much older proverb quoted by Cicero (106-43 B.C.) that says, “The face is a picture of the mind as the eyes are its interpreter.”

Indeed, we interpret so much of our world through the sense of sight. Most of us are hardly aware of just how incredible our eyes are until something goes wrong.

This writer knows all too well how fragile eyes are and the importance to properly care for them. Eye disease runs in my family and 15 years ago, I was diagnosed with glaucoma, one of the more debilitating eye diseases that can cause blindness without proper medical care.

Taking care of our eyes is crucial. Here are a few practical tips from WebMD that increases our overall eye health.

• Eat well

Good eye health starts with the food on your plate, like those rich in omega fatty acids and zinc. Also, vitamins C and E that might help ward off age-related vision problems like macular degeneration and cataracts. To get these nutrients, fill your plate with:

— Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and collards; salmon, tuna, and other oily fish

— Eggs, nuts, beans, and other nonmeat protein sources

— Oranges and other citrus fruits or juices

— Oysters and pork

• Quit smoking

Smoking makes it more likely to develop cataracts, damage your optic nerve, and cause macular degeneration, among many other medical problems.

• Wear sunglasses

Wearing sunglasses reduces harmful ultra-violet rays that can increase incidences of macular degeneration and cataracts.

Who do you see for eye care?

Who does one see for eye care?

Both ophthalmologists and optometrists are trained in eye care, but there are differences.

An ophthalmologist can be either a medical doctor or a doctor of osteopathic medicine.

Ophthalmologist have the highest level of education, giving them the ability to not just diagnose eye disease, but to surgically treat it. A general ophthalmologist will complete a four-year undergraduate degree followed by four additional years of medical school, either to become a doctor of medicine or a doctor of osteopathic medicine.

A three-year residency follows medical school, and that is when students study eye disease and surgical methods to treat diseases.

A doctor of optometry will complete a four-year undergraduate degree followed by four additional years of optometry school. An optometrist can perform all basic vision tests and eye examinations as well as identify and treat many eye abnormalities.

Eye exams essential

Alexander Harris is an ophthalmologist at Slocum-Dickson Medical Group in New Hartford.

“Routine eye exams are very important to monitor for the development of potential vision-threatening conditions,” said Harris, noting that routine eye exams will evaluate for common conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, dry eye, and presbyopia, a part of aging where the eyes’ ability to focus on nearby objects diminishes gradually.

“While I diagnosis and treat many different eye diseases, some of the more common eyes diseases that I see and treat are cataracts and glaucoma,” he said.

Cataracts are a condition when the natural lens in the eye opacifies, or becomes opaque, leading to symptoms of glare from lights and decreased vision.  Glaucoma is an eye condition where peripheral vision is slowly lost.

Patients with early glaucoma will have no symptoms to prompt a visit to the eye doctor. That is why it is so important to have routine eye exams. Ophthalmology is the only specialty where the physician directly visualizes the blood vessels, and they are on occasion the ones who diagnosis systemic diseases effecting these vessels, such as diabetes, hypertension, and stroke.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology provides patient information for common eye conditions at aao.org/eye-health.

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