I look at people’s eyes every day and no one is exactly the same. Sometimes the issues are subtle and sometimes they can be obvious enough you see them as they are walking to the exam room. The key to heading off serious issues is maintenance and regular eye exams. As future dentists, you will tell your patients the same thing about dental visits and oral hygiene. I am going to touch on some of the key maintenance topics you can do to keep up your ocular health. I am doing this selfishly, as I need my future dentist’s eyes to be working as optimally as possible.
Not everybody wears corrective lenses, be it glasses or contacts, so I will start with something every single one of you do: work on a computer. There is something called the 20/20 rule to remember when working on a computer. For every 20 minutes spent looking at a computer, tablet, laptop or phone, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. The purpose of this is to alleviate some of the eye strain that comes from focusing at a lit screen and reset your gaze to a neutral non-focusing position. When looking at a distance, your vision should be in the most relaxed state. When looking at a computer screen, our blink rate is halved. This contributes to dry eyes and strain. By looking up, our blink rate returns to our regular rate. Try it. You will be surprised at the difference it makes.
Another area that affects everyone is UV protection. UV light can contribute to eye diseases such as cataracts, macular degeneration, ocular melanoma and keratitis (basically a sunburn of the cornea). Simply by wearing good UV protective sunglasses, we can truly reduce most of those issues. Think of sunglasses as sunscreen for your eyes.
For those of you who wear corrective lenses, make sure you are wearing the correct and current prescription in your glasses, and that it’s been verified by your eye doctor. Visual comfort and clarity will improve your mental and physical performance. Contact lens users: please do not wear a two week lens for a month, or a month lens for 3 months, or a daily lens for more than one day. Imagine what you think of patients who do not floss daily, or do not brush daily. That is what optometrists think of contact lens abusers. Corneal ulcers are no joke. This is: what did one eye say to the other? Something between us smells.
Finally, make sure when you visit your eye doctor, you relay all of your issues. If your contacts are dry, do not think that is normal. There may be a better lens out there for you. If you are curious about LASIK, ask if you would be a good candidate. If you are unsure how to care for your contacts, ask and find out the best solution for your lens and how you should clean them and when to change them. Most importantly, visit your eye doctor because real issues like retinal detachments, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy are easier to treat on a proactive basis than a reactive one.
~Dr. Mark Veth, optometrist, Be Spectacled
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