Our eyes allow us to see life in all its natural wonder. What we see serves as inspiration to awaken the rest of our senses.

As March is Eye Health Awareness Month, consider what the experts have to say on how to keep those windows to the world healthy.

Get routine checkups

For adults, annual exams are critical for a proper evaluation of eye health, says Dr. Matthew Gorski, assistant professor of ophthalmology at Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell in Great Neck. A comprehensive eye exam in which the eyes are dilated explores the entire eye and its surrounding structures, testing vision and eye pressure.

“Cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, floaters, dry eye syndrome, and refractive error are common issues that are diagnosed and routinely managed with an ophthalmologist,” says Dr. Gorski.

In addition to annual screenings with their pediatrician, children should also be periodically checked by a pediatric ophthalmologist, says Dr. Ketan Laud, retinal surgeon for Ophthalmic Consultants of Long Island (OCLI).

“The circuits between the brain and the eyes are established by age 11,” so it is critical to identify any weak connections early, explains Dr. Laud.

A lazy eye or amblyopia in a child could be corrected by therapy, surgery, or a patching program in which the stronger eye is covered to force the weaker eye to work harder. If caught early enough, this condition may be corrected with prescription lenses, he says.

Watch for warning signs

If you’re experiencing unusual symptoms — a sudden onset of flashing lights or floating spots, sudden loss in vision, double vision, headaches or increase in headaches — follow up, says Dr. Cheryl Berger Israeloff, a neuro visual optometrist at the Neuro Visual Center of New York in Garden City.

“It’s important to rule out an ocular problem,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be life threatening but if someone is seeing flashes of light, it can be vision threatening.”

Nearsightedness or farsightedness could be corrected with glasses or contacts, she adds.

Choose your eyewear wisely

Choosing between contact lenses or glasses is truly “a lifestyle choice,” says Dr. Richard G. Davis, ophthalmologist and managing partner at Precision Eye Care (an OCLI Division) and medical director at Island Eye Surgicenter in Huntington.

Contacts come in handy during “sports activities where having the correction closer to the eye aids in better visualization of fast movements with less peripheral distortion.”

Having a backup pair of eyeglasses is valuable if contacts can’t be worn due to an irritation or infection.

“Eyeglasses provide an element of protection to the eyes not afforded by contact lenses,” he says.

Avoid eye-related injuries

Wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from UVA and UVB light helps prevent the development of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, and decreases the risk of eyelid skin cancers, says Dr. Gorski. Use protective glasses during activities such as gardening, operating heavy tools or machinery, fishing, or playing sports.

Prevent infection by “properly cleaning or discarding contacts, never sleeping or swimming in contacts, and routinely seeing your eye care specialist.”

And don’t smoke.

“Smoking has been linked to the development of cataracts, age- related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and dry eye syndrome and can worsen thyroid-related eye disease,” he warns.

Heart healthy = eye healthy

According to Dr. Laud, there isn’t a strong link between diet and eyesight, however, “you can always be proactive,” especially if you have a family history of macular degeneration.

“Everybody should be eating a heart-healthy diet,” the doctor says. That means one that is low fat and rich in fish and dark, leafy vegetables that provide antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin.

Your eyes help you to connect to people, the environment and the world. They are the windows into your overall health and well-being. Practice due diligence to achieve a clear path of eye health and a greater quality of life.

TAKE A LOOK

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