How to Understand and Solve Vision Problems

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Vision Solutions, cont'd.

Q. I'm pregnant and notice that my vision, which has always been great, is becoming blurry. What's happening?

A. Some vision changes during pregnancy can signal such serious health problems as high blood pressure and gestational diabetes, so you should see your doctor immediately. But chances are the very same hormones that are causing your ankles to balloon and your pelvis to relax are also altering the shape and structure of your cornea, changing the way it focuses. Most vision problems disappear four to six weeks after delivery, so if the blur is bearable, your best bet may be to just sit tight and wait for clearer days.

Q. I'm considering monovision Lasik to correct my presbyopia, but how long-lasting are the results? If I get it done at 45, will I need it redone at 65?

A. Probably not. "Because Lasik involves permanent removal of tissue from the cornea," says Dr. Dougherty, "the effects are long-term." A small number of patients may need a redo, he says, but it's not typical. Even if there is some regression, the eye will never revert to where it started. And additional surgery, which involves removing surface cells that have grown into the area that was treated, is simple to perform. But Lasik won't prevent the development of cataracts, an age-related clouding of the lens that blurs vision. "By the time you're 65, any change in vision will likely be due to cataract formation," says Dr. Dougherty. And, of course, there's surgery for that, too.

Sight Savers

Yes, some vision changes are inevitable. But there are things you can do to stop or at least slow the damage.

Stop smoking

The noxious chemicals create inflammation and cause damage to the small vessels of the eyes. That double whammy makes smokers more prone to cataracts and macular degeneration, a disease that damages central vision, meaning the sight you use to recognize faces or read a book.

Wear sunglasses

Shades act as a physical shield, protecting your eyes from the sun's UV radiation, which over time increases your risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. Experts say lens color and price point have no bearing on how effectively sunglasses block light. Just look for a pair that knocks out 100 percent of UVA and UVB radiation -- and make sure you wear them.

Improve tech habits

More than 40 percent of us experience eyestrain after prolonged computer use, according to a survey from the American Optometric Association. Make sure your computer monitor is at eye level (when it's too high your eyelid moves up, exposing more of your eye to the air's drying effects). Turn the screen away from a window to cut down on glare, turn off harsh overhead lights and use shaded desk lamps. Give your eyes a break from the computer screen for a few minutes once an hour. And if you wear glasses, ask your doctor for computer glasses, which have a larger-than-normal portion of the lens devoted to intermediate vision.

Watch your diet

More and more research is linking good nutrition to good eyesight. For example, those who eat a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids have a lower risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness, according to two recent studies. And those who eat one to two servings a week of nuts rich in omega-3s have a 35 percent lower risk of early AMD, says an Australian study.

Get moving

It will help you avoid diabetes, which can affect your vision. Regular exercise also seems to decrease the risk of AMD. Adults with an active lifestyle (working up a sweat three or more times a week) were 70 percent less likely to develop AMD than those who were more sedentary, says a study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Evidence suggests that exercise could protect against development of AMD, but more research is needed to understand why," says Dr. Bishop.

Make an appointment

Be as vigilant about eye checkups as you are about mammograms -- especially if you have risk factors like diabetes and high blood pressure or a family history of glaucoma or AMD. Even if you've never had vision problems, you should start with a baseline eye exam at age 40, says the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Your eye-care professional will recommend when to follow up.

Beyond Bifocals

A lot has happened in vision correction in the 200-plus years since Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals. Here, some of the latest advances in contact lenses and glasses.

Contact options

You can wear a contact in one eye to correct for nearsightedness and a different type in the other eye for farsightedness. Or you can try bifocal contact lenses to help you see up close and at a distance with both eyes. Multifocal progressive lenses let you see at every distance -- near, far, and intermediate. And ortho-k lenses reshape the cornea of the eye while you sleep, temporarily reducing nearsightedness so you can get through the day without contacts or glasses.

Eyeglass improvements

Progressive lenses allow you to see near, intermediate, or distance without a discernible line to obstruct vision (or scream "I'm old"). Wavefront-optimized lenses are an enhanced type of progressive lens that provides less distortion and a wider viewing area so you can see clearly at all distances. Other advances include super-lightweight lenses (in some cases up to 50 percent lighter than traditional lenses) and lenses with new coatings to reduce scratches and wick moisture. You don't have to look down through your glasses to read or up to see distance anymore. TruFocals are glasses with a slider at the bridge of the nose. Like binoculars, they let you zoom in for close work, move out for computer work and dial out even farther for distance vision.

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, December 2010/January 2011.

 

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