We take our eyes for granted yet they are one of the most complex and fragile organs in the human body. Understanding our eyes and our vision system can help us better protect them, and prevent eye problems and diseases from occurring.
Below are answers to some common questions regarding eye health and protection:
- Are eye check-ups necessary in the absence of symptoms?
An annual eye check-up is important even in young people as many eye diseases can begin at an early age and be totally asymptomatic, like glaucoma. The eye examination can also detect a number of other underlying health problems, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. In addition, the earlier a problem is detected, the greater the likelihood of its treatment being successful.
- Are flashing lights and floaters worrisome?
Floaters are caused by small opacities normally developing with age inside the clear vitreous gel of the eye. However, a sudden increase in floaters is usually associated with the shrinkage and separation of the vitreous from the retina (a posterior vitreous detachment - PVD). This process occurs mainly in patients over the age of 50 and is usually harmless but it may be associated with a serious retinal problem in about 10% of cases. Flashing lights often appear in the setting of a PVD but they may also occur in other conditions such as migraine.
A sudden onset of symptoms should always alert the patient to seek immediate medical attention and have a dilated retinal examination.
- Should a cataract be allowed to mature before it is removed?
A cataract needs to be removed when it becomes symptomatic but there is no need to wait until it ripens. With modern surgical techniques, cataracts can be removed and replaced with intraocular lens implants at an early stage with very good results.
- Does smoking affect the eyes?
Smoking can cause extensive damage to eyes. Studies have shown that smokers are at an increased risk of developing cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration and damage to the optic nerve.
- Are vitamins and good nutrition beneficial to the eyes?
Various studies have shown that there is a link between good nutrition and healthy eyes. The antioxidant vitamins A, C and E and other antioxidants such as the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin (found naturally in vegetables and fruit) can improve eye health and reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. A diet high in fruit, vegetables and oily fish and low in saturated fats and sugar will help both eyes and general health.
- Is eye protection from the sun and UV rays essential?
It is essential to protect the eyes not only from an eclipse but from general sunny conditions by wearing sunglasses. Winter mountain activities such as skiing always require eye protection as the snow tends to reflect large amounts of damaging
- Are computer and television screens harmful to the eyes?
There is no evidence that working on a computer or watching television is harmful to the eyes although it can make them feel uncomfortable.
- Does wearing glasses prevent myopia from getting worse?
Myopia is usually caused by the eye being too long which is why it tends to reveal itself during the early years of growth. There is no hard evidence that wearing either glasses or contact lenses slows down or halts its progression.
- Is it possible to transplant eyes?
At present, it is not possible to transplant an entire eye. However, certain parts of the eye can be changed like the cornea (corneal transplant) and the natural crystalline lens (intraocular lens implant) during cataract surgery.