What is the most important thing that parents can do to care for their toddlers’ vision?
“As a parent of a toddler, I am fully aware of how important good near-vision is for learning,” says Dr. Timothy Smith of Halpern Eye Care, which has offices in Wilmington and eight other locations in Delaware. “My advice to parents of toddlers is to sit down and look at a book with the youngster and see if they can point out different pictures. Also, it is vital to look for any signs of an eye turning inward or outward, as well as making sure the child is not squinting.” Even if the child is not exhibiting problems, Smith recommends that toddlers get vision exams before entering preschool.
What is the most important vision-related issue for people in their teens or 20s?
Eye safety is a huge concern for that age group, says Dr. Timothy F.M. Doyle of Delaware Eye Care Center, which has five offices in the state. “Traumatic injuries are a common reason for visits from patients in this age group,” Doyle says. “Wearing appropriate eye protection while playing sports like racquetball or paintball, or working in the yard or at a job that involves airborne particulate matter is very important. For those who wear contact lenses, appropriate care and wear is important to protect the eyes from risk of infection.” Here’s another potential hazard: teen driving. “I always advise parents to get teens’ eyes checked before their child gets a license to ensure that their vision is good for safe driving,” says Smith. “This is crucial to kids who do not wear prescription glasses because some refractive conditions like astigmatism may worsen in low-light situations like driving at night or on snowy, gloomy days.”
Why does vision change when people get into their 40s?
“Presbyopia,” answers Smith. “It’s the fancy term for people hitting 40 and needing multifocal lenses. Around this magic age, give or take a few years, our focusing ability at near [objects] begins to decline.” Why does that happen? “The cornea and the lens work like a camera’s focusing system, and the retina works like film,” explains Dr. Edward Jaoude of Delaware Eye Clinics in Milton. “When you are young, the eye’s lens is soft and flexible, and changes its shape easily, allowing you to focus on objects both close and far away. After age 40, the lens becomes more rigid. Because the lens can’t change shape as easily as it once did, it is more difficult to focus on objects at close range.” Almost everyone develops presbyopia, Jaoude says, and if people also have myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) or astigmatism, they will likely have to wear bifocals or progressive multifocal glasses. But for folks who just have presbyopia, aka aging eyes? Reading glasses will suffice.
What eye health issues should people over the age of 55 be aware of?
“A few conditions that have a tendency to come with birthdays are cataracts and age-related macular degeneration,” Smith says. “The crystalline lens, which is about the size of an M&M, will become cloudy and discolored over time in just about everyone. The clouding of the lens is referred to as a cataract.”New technologies are making cataract surgery safer and more effective. Eye Care of Delaware has its own on-site ambulatory surgical center that specializes in cataract surgery. At ECD’s Cataract and Laser Center, Dr. Frank Owczarek and Dr. Jeffrey Boyd are using the new LenSx femtosecond laser to not only remove cataracts but also correct patients’ mild astigmatisms. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is another condition that can affect older people. Smith explains how AMD progresses. “The central part of our vision, called the macula, begins to atrophy, and precipitates called drusen begin to form in it,” he says. There are two types of AMD: dry and wet. Of patients diagnosed with AMD, the dry version occurs in 90 percent of the cases and wet occurs in 10 percent. “Wet AMD refers to blood vessels that form in the macula, which obstructs vision,” Smith says. “Some forms of wet AMD respond to medications injected in the eye to prevent blood vessel formation. But there are no definitive treatments for dry AMD.” Glaucoma is another age-related eye disease. Jaoude explains that glaucoma is actually a group of diseases, all caused by the build-up of fluid in the eye. That causes an increase in the pressure inside the eye and damages the optic nerve. “Your eye doctor can help control glaucoma by prescribing eye drops or pills,” Jaoude says. “Laser surgery is another way to open clogged areas so that the eye fluid drains and eases pressure against the optic nerve. Surgery is another option, but is used only when drops or laser surgery fails to control the pressure.” While glaucoma, cataracts and AMD are diseases specific to vision, chronic diseases that seem to be unrelated to the eyes can also become problematic. “Systemic diseases and conditions that are more prevalent as we age include diabetes mellitus, thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis and medicines used to treat it, as well as hypertension,” Doyle says. Keep them in check, the doctors agree, with annual vision exams.