Eyesight Might

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April is Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month so what better time to remove your rose–colored glasses and take a look at how your lifestyle might be affecting your precious sight? Most African Americans take our vision for granted unless accident, injury or disease reminds us how priceless a gift we’ve been given.

Let’s talk about a few eye–related issues that should concern every Black woman and man.

First, whether you wear glasses or not, an Ophthalmologist should check your eyes annually. Yearly testing is especially important if you are over age 40 or Diabetic, as clear vision often decreases with age and African Americans who are Diabetic are at increased risk for Glaucoma and Diabetic Retinopathy.

Glaucoma has no symptoms and can only be detected during a comprehensive eye exam. Diabetic Retinopathy, as the name implies, affects the retina of the eye and will cause blindness if left untreated.

If you are an older Black person, here’s some good news: The American Academy of Ophthalmology has a program called EyeCare America that refers qualified seniors who’ve not seen an Ophthalmologist in three years or more to a local volunteer eye care specialist who will conduct a comprehensive eye exam and offer up to a year of care at no out of pocket cost to patients. African Americans at high risk for Glaucoma can also get referrals for a free Glaucoma screening if they haven’t had an eye exam in the last 12 months. Call 1–800–222–3937 or go to www.eyecareamerica.org to learn how to sign up.

And here’s some more good news: If you’re tired of dropping them, losing them and cleaning them and you long to toss those eyeglasses aside, at least for part of the day, you may be a candidate for a new surgical eye procedure called Implantable Contact Lenses. The Food and Drug Administration recently approved the lenses, but they may not eliminate the need for corrective lenses for nighttime driving or other low light activities or close detail work.

Implantable Contact Lenses offer an alternative to eyeglasses and temporary contact lenses. The simple surgery corrects distance vision, but is not advised for patients who have already had or are candidates for, Lasik surgery. Check with your Ophthalmologist about this new procedure. It just might work for you.

Now let’s discuss a few everyday habits that can put your eye health of Black Americans in real jeopardy.

Mascara, eyeliners, pencils, eye shadow, lash curlers, tweezers and other paraphernalia can do real damage to your eyes if not used sparingly and carefully.

Even products marked "hypoallergenic" still contain ingredients that can irritate eyes. Pigments and other agents that give eye makeup its shimmer and color may leave you wishing you had opted for the natural look instead.

Avoid injury to the eyes with a high magnification mirror when using metal or hard plastic instruments. Keep your tools clean. Repeatedly flush your eyes with clear water after using oil–based makeup removers and give your eyes a break from makeup whenever you can.

Spring is pollen and allergy season, both major irritants to the eyes. If you suffer severely from environmental pollutants, take action. Change your clothes as soon as you come home and wash your hair. Both are collectors of pollen that can continue to irritate your eyes for hours after you’ve come indoors. Unwashed hair can transfer pollen to pillowcases and irritate your eyes throughout the night.

Give your eyes a break from the computer and television screen at least hourly. Let your eyes rest completely at night by sleeping in total darkness. If a dark house makes you nervous, leave on a light, but wear an eye mask.

Finally, remember, all sunglasses are not created equal. To give your eyes full protection, wear shades coated with an Ultra Violet film that filters out the sun’s harmful rays.

No matter your age or gender, good eyesight is your birthright. Take care!

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