I have been an optometrist for 34 years. It has given me a lot of opportunity to contemplate the reason I chose to dedicate my working life to this career. When I think of people at risk of losing their sight, I mostly think of seniors, or those with debilitating health conditions like diabetes. Protecting a person from sight loss really begins at birth. Let me take some time to explain how at every season of life there is a window of opportunity to protect an individual’s eyes for the next stage.
At birth the most common risk of vision loss is amblyopia, also known as lazy eye. At its worst this can prevent a child’s eyes from being able to transmit information to the brain. Amblyopia can lead to a vision loss up to legal blindness in one eye. This also causes a loss in ability for good depth perception. The window of opportunity to treat lazy eye effectively closes around age 8. Lazy eye can be effectively reduced or eliminated with proper treatment before age 8.
As a child grows it’s common for many children to become nearsighted (poor distance vision). This tendency to become nearsighted is linked to the body’s growth process but is also affected by hours of near activity like cell phones, reading and computer use. Decreased amount of time outdoors, linked with more electronic use, has lead us to a world wide myopia epidemic. Most individuals start this nearsighted path before they are age 20, and the younger they start the more nearsighted they become. The risks associated with nearsightedness (aside from poor distance vision) are increased risk of sight loss from glaucoma and retinal detachment. This nearsighted progression usually ends in early to mid twenties. We can reduce the rate a child becomes nearsighted by up to 60% if we are able to provide treatment prior to its development.
As we progress into adult life, the most common cause of sight loss is diabetes. This leads the pack in causes of blindness up to age 74. Diet, genetics and amount of physical activity are all risk factors to develop diabetes. Sight loss from diabetes is largely preventable with proper care.
Close behind diabetes in sight loss risk is glaucoma. The rate an individual develops glaucoma increases every decade after age 40. There are many good treatments to prevent sight loss from glaucoma.
With proper eye care and treatment, most individual’s sight can be maintained. In senior years (75 and older) macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness. We are learning more about macular degeneration and the risk factors each year. We can significantly lower the risk of sight loss from macular degeneration through a variety of preventive measures and available treatments.
The common thread among all of these conditions is the fact that by being proactive the chances of sight loss at every stage of life is reduced. Solutions exist for all of the mentioned problems: Amblyopia, Nearsightedness, Diabetic eye disease, Glaucoma, and Macular Degeneration. In today’s time lost sight can be regained. Preventive eye examinations provide the opportunity to save and protect sight. Each stage of life has its own risks. We encourage and invite you to contact us; We can help prevent you and your family from these conditions. Early detection is the key.