Vision after 40

Even if you never wore glasses as a child or young adult, it’s important to be aware of changes in your vision once you reach age 40. According to the American Optometric Association, there are five common vision changes you may experience in middle age, including:

  • Changes in color perception: The lens within your eye, which is normally clear, may start to discolor and make it difficult for you to differentiate between shades of colors.
  • Problems with glare: Driving may become more difficult as glare from headlights or the sun becomes more noticeable. This increase in glare is a result of light being scattered on the retina instead of being properly focused.
  • Reduced tears: Tear glands tend to produce fewer tears as you age. Post-menopausal women may notice that their eyes are especially dry and should talk to their True Dental Discounts optometrist about solutions like medicated eye drops.
  • Needing more light: You may have noticed it is not as easy to read in dim lighting as it once was. Solve this issue by using bright lamps while reading or working.
  • Difficulty reading or working up close: The lens in the eye starts to become more flexible as you age, making it harder for your eyes to focus on nearby objects. This can cause books or documents to appear blurry at close distances, so ask your vision plan doctor about getting reading glasses as well as an overall vision exam.

Dry eyes? Try a humidifier

When allergy season rolls around, many people begin to suffer from dry, irritated eyes. One simple solution to this problem is to alter the humidity levels in your home. According to The Dry Eye Company, patients with chronic dry eyes can benefit from purchasing a humidifier. Humidifiers work by releasing moisture into the air and can be used in any enclosed room to help control humidity levels. Watch out, though: Too much humidity can increase the amount of dust and mold in a room, so be sure to keep your levels around 40 to 50 percent.

Any lower than approximately 30 percent, and people will likely notice a change in their eyes. Many people suffer from dry eyes year-round, so be sure to ask your eye doctor about any irritation you experience in your eyes. He or she can help diagnose the cause and talk to you about potential solutions, such as a humidifier.

What kinds of tests can I expect at an eye appointment?

Patients who get their eyes checked are generally asked to perform a few different vision tests. These tests allow an eye doctor to examine the functioning of a person’s eyes and determine whether further corrective action needs to be taken. One such test is the visual acuity test. This common test measures the details a person can see at both near and far distances. Usually, a patient is asked to read a series of letters or numbers in varying sizes. Each eye is tested individually so the doctor can note any differences or weaknesses. Another common test is the visual field test, in which patients’ eyes are also tested individually. In this test, the person is instructed to look forward while indicating whether they can perceive lights or objects in their peripheral vision.

The visual field test is helpful because it maps a person’s entire field of vision and can detect conditions like glaucoma. A third common test is known as refraction. This test measures refractive error and can indicate a person’s need for corrective lenses. Refraction is helpful for identifying both farsightedness and nearsightedness. Finally, eye doctors typically conduct a color vision test to measure a person’s ability to distinguish colors. This test can detect variations of color blindness and is usually performed by symbols made up of colored dot patterns. People who have trouble distinguishing certain colors will not be able to perceive the imbedded symbols, thereby indicating possible color blindness.

Should you wear contacts at work?

Certain professions may be more hazardous to your vision health than others. To help protect people involved in these environments, particularly industry jobs, the American Optometric Association released a statement in 1998 to provoke questions about vision hazards at work. The Association mandates that contact lenses themselves cannot and should not be used as protective eyewear. Other types of protection must be used (like goggles) to protect the eyes, whether a person wears contacts or not. In determining whether contact lenses present a risk in the workplace, the Association advises that people ask questions like, “Is the risk different for various contact lens materials and designs?” and “Do contact lenses decrease the efficacy of other safety strategies?

Doctors who prescribe contact lenses to patients involved in hazardous fields should also keep in mind certain factors, the Association says. For instance, a doctor should take into account what hygiene facilities are available, what raw materials are involved, whether protective equipment is provided and used, and what kinds of toxic chemicals/agents could be encountered on the job. In all, the Association found that “contact lenses may be worn safely under a variety of environmental situations including those which, from a superficial evaluation, might appear hazardous.” Also, because there is no evidence to suggest that contact lenses negate the protection of safety equipment, the Association recommends that there be no ban on contact lenses in the workplace. This means you can feel confident about wearing your contact lenses to work, but be sensible when in hazardous environments, and never think of your contacts as protective eyewear.

Protective eyewear and unexpected injuries

You may not think of your home, workplace or favorite playing field as dangerous areas for your eyes, but it is very common to experience eye injuries in these day-to-day places. In fact, according to the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, more than 1 million people experience eye injuries each year. The vast majority of these injuries could have been prevented with protective eyewear, so think twice before you write off eye protection as unnecessary.

Even common places like your house, backyard and car can lead to injuries. When in your house, the foundation suggests working in a well-ventilated area and being extra cautious while using cleaning chemicals. Accidental sprays in the eye can severely damage the surface of your eyes and even cause blindness. In your yard, make sure to wear protective eyewear to prevent getting hit with a stone while mowing or trimming. Unexpected accidents like these are easily prevented with goggles. In the same way, eye protection is key while working on your car, too. Sparks and battery acid can be devastating to the eye, so be cautious of your vision during those everyday repairs.

The same goes for your workshop, where wood particles and fragments can get lodged in your eye. Finally, always be cautious during sports, particularly martial arts, and never assume that your contacts protect your eyes. Your eye doctor can advise you on the protective eyewear that will work best for you at your next appointment. As the saying goes, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Discount Retinal Examinations

Eye exams can include many different vision tests that measure the health and functioning of your eyes. One of these tests is a retinal examination, which looks at the retina, optic disk, and blood vessels in the back of your eye. According to the Mayo Clinic, eye doctors may use one of three techniques to look at the back of your eye. First, however, he will likely need to dilate your pupils with eye drops that may give you a slight stinging sensation. After the drops are in place, he may conduct a direct examination, an indirect examination, or a slit-lamp examination.

In a direct examination, a beam of light is shined through the pupil so that the doctor can view the back of the eye with an ophthalmoscope. This exam may cause you to temporarily see afterimages once the light is gone. For an indirect examination, the patient usually lies down on a chair while the doctor shines a light strapped to his head into the patient’s eye. This technique allows the doctor to see the eye in three dimensions and is also likely to result in temporary afterimages. Finally, the slit-lamp examination has the ability to show the doctor the most detail about the back of the eye.

In this exam, the doctor uses the slit lamp as well as a condensing or contact lens. Each of these three exams takes only about five to 10 minutes, but depending on the use of eye drops, your vision will likely be blurry for several hours. Before your appointment at your vision plan doctor, ask someone to drive you home and make any necessary arrangements at work.

Preventing and recognizing a lazy eye

Childhood is a time of rapid growth and change for the entire body, particularly for the eyes. A person’s sight undergoes critical developments in the early years, meaning parents must be extra-vigilant about their child’s eyesight during this time. One issue that can arise in young children is known as amblyopia – or “lazy eye.” In this case, one eye is strong while the other is weak, creating a harmful imbalance. EyeCare America recommends that parents get their child’s eyes checked by age four because early treatment is the most effective. Children who are treated before the age of nine are generally able to have better-restored vision than those who wait until their teenage years. It’s important to get the opinion of an ophthalmologist because it’s hard to detect a lazy eye (even the child may be unaware she has a problem).

If an imbalance is detected, the eye doctor may recommend one of several treatments, most of which are geared toward building strength in the weak eye. This may be done by having the child wear an eye patch over her good eye or even using drops to blur vision in her good eye. Both of these methods force the child to use her weak eye in order to regain strength and balance. While perhaps difficult at first, the payoff will be a lifetime of good vision. If you suspect your child may have a lazy eye, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your eye doctor. It’s always a good idea to get regular check-ups, and in case of a problem, your doctor can begin treatments early and effectively.

Protecting your vision during a flood

Everyone knows that floods are responsible for significant damage to property and wildlife, but here’s another concern to add to the list: vision. During a flood, an increased amount of water-borne pathogens are released, creating a dangerous situation for people’s eyes – particularly those of contact-wearers. The American Optometric Association indicates that these pathogens can cause infection, or even loss of vision, in flood victims. If you find yourself forced to make contact with flood water, the American Optometric Association suggests you immediately remove contacts or wear goggles to protect your eyes.

It’s also important to be ultra-vigilant about washing your hands before touching your eye and using approved sterile products to disinfect lenses. Tap water should not be assumed clean or used to store contact lenses. If you are exposed to flood water, the American Optometric Association strongly recommends that you contact your eye doctor immediately if you notice symptoms such as: lasting red or irritated eyes; pain around the eyes; increased sensitivity to light; blurred vision; or excessive tearing. These conditions can have a long-term impact on your health and vision, so make sure you consult your optometrist if you feel threatened by a flood.

Back-to-school eye exams

What’s on your back-to-school list? Buying new pencils and paper? Getting new clothes? This year, make sure you add a visit to the optometrist to your list. A comprehensive eye exam is critical for children to make sure they do not have any emerging vision problems that could affect their work at school. According to the American Optometric Association, 60 percent of children labeled as “problem learners” actually have undiagnosed problems with their vision. Many children receive a “vision screening,” which is not the same as a comprehensive eye exam and only looks at limited issues.

In a comprehensive exam, the optometrist will measure visual acuity at several distances, which tests the child’s ability to read the blackboard, a computer screen, her books, and other materials. The doctor will also test the child’s ability to focus, visual alignment, eye-hand-body coordination (essential for handwriting skills, sports, musical instruments), and color vision. All of these vision skills are critical to success in school. To give your child the best chance for success this year, schedule an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam at your optometrist and use your vision plan for a discount. It could be the most important thing on your to-do list!

Floaters in your vision

A lot of people joke about seeing stars, but many people actually do see shapes run across their field of vision. These shapes are technically called “floaters” and can vary in appearance from specks and dots to clouds and cobwebs. EyeCare America explains this phenomenon as “clumps and strands within the gel of the eye” that create shadows on a person’s retina. These shadows account for the varying shapes and are typically cast when a person is looking at a large, solid-colored object (like a wall).

Unfortunately, although some are harmless, floaters can occasionally indicate a serious problem with the eye, such as a torn retina. People who are middle-aged are especially prone to floaters, so be alert and talk to your eye doctor if you notice any changes in your vision. It’s important to get your eyes examined on a regular basis to treat and prevent conditions like floaters.