We take good eyesight for granted until something goes wrong. Many problems affecting vision can be prevented. We all know the importance of shielding our skin from the sun, but not everyone realizes that sunlight can also contribute to eye problems including cataracts and pterygium (small growths on the white part of the eye) which begin as a raised red area and can eventually affect vision if they spread to the colored part of the eye. Wearing a hat and well fitting sun–glasses, especially “Wraparound” glasses for extra protection help prevent sun damage and are particularly important for outdoor workers.
Vision weakens as you age
Although it’s true that most people need glasses as they get older, many vision problems can be prevented or treated. However, many older people don’t get help as they think their eyesight problems are either due to age and can’t be helped, or aren’t important enough to merit consulting a specialist. Anyone with vision–related problems ought to see an ophthalmologist or an optometrist.
Eye problems in children
Signs that a child may have a problem include: if they squint or frown excessively, keep rubbing their eyes or close or cover one eye when looking at an object, sit too close to the television or hold books close to their eyes, don’t do as well as they should at school, are disruptive in class or avoid games which need distance vision. Two to four percent of children have a “Lazy eye” or amblyopia, a condition where the vision is reduced in one eye. Sometimes a “Lazy eye” is obvious when the child focuses on an object, one eye looks in a different direction. However, in some children the eyes look normal and the problem goes unnoticed. This is why all children need their eyes checked before starting school. Children don’t grow out of a “Lazy eye” they need to see an ophthalmologist promptly.
Checking your eyes
All adults need to have their eyes checked every two years to detect problems before they become serious. This is especially important for anyone with diabetes or anyone with a family history of glaucoma.
About three per cent of people over 40 have glaucoma, but it also affects young adults and children too. People with diabetes, family history of glaucoma, or people who have migraine or a previous eye injury have a higher risk of the disease. Ask your GP to refer you to an ophthalmologist or optometrist for a checkup.
Spots before the eyes
These are called “Floaters”. They can best be seen by looking up at a plain white ceiling or clear blue sky. Although they’re a result of ageing and usually harmless, they can sometimes be a sign of something more serious, it is best to get it checked, just in case. However, if you see new spots in front of your eyes or see flashing lights suddenly or suffer partial loss of vision this is a warning your eyes may be at risk. Your GP can refer you to an eye specialist.