Looking Good in 2006
- Created on December 8th, 2005
- By Journey to Wellness
Any New Year’s resolution is better kept when the vision of what we’re trying to achieve is clear. In the interest of bringing our resolutions into focus and ensuring that we continue to see the beauty of life, let’s resolve to take better care of our eyes in 2006.
African–Americans are more at risk for blindness than many other ethnic groups because of Black’s increased risk of Diabetes – a leading cause Diabetic Retinopathy – a condition that often leads to blindness if not detected in its early stages. But many other conditions also compromise our eyesight. Cataracts, Glaucoma and Macular Degeneration are a few of the more common diseases of the eye that put Black people at risk, particularly as we age. Let’s briefly discuss each one.
Diabetic Retinopathy occurs when the circulatory system of the retina is weakened and leaks, forming small, dot–like hemorrhages. These leaking vessels often lead to swelling or edema in the retina and decreased vision. In the latter stages of the disease, circulation problems cause the retina to become oxygen deprived causing the formation of scar tissue, Glaucoma or retinal detachment. Diabetic Retinopathy typically develops in persons who have suffered from Diabetes for 20 years or more. Symptoms include floaters & flashes; blurred vision; sudden loss of vision.
A cataract is a clouding of the lens, the part of the eye responsible for focusing light and producing clear images. The lens is contained in a sealed bag or capsule. As old cells die, they become trapped within the capsule. Over time, the cells accumulate causing the lens to cloud, making images look blurred or fuzzy. Cataracts are a natural result of aging. Symptoms: blurred vision.
Macular Degeneration is a condition of the central retina (or macular.) It’s caused by hardening of the arteries that nourish the retina. Hardening deprives sensitive retinal tissue of oxygen and nutrients needed to function and thrive. As a result, central vision deteriorates. Macular Degeneration can cause total loss of central vision or only slight distortion. Symptoms: difficulty with reading or small detail work; distorted vision and decreased central vision.
Glaucoma occurs when fluid builds up in the eye creating pressure. Pressure results from drainage structures of the eye that are either malformed or malfunctioning. Permanent damage to the optic nerve results leading to blindness. Symptoms: none.
Diseases of the eye may be caused by many factors ranging from heredity to age or the presence of other conditions as in the case of Diabetic Retinopathy. Recent medical studies have also shown a relationship between eye disease and lifestyle habits like poor diet, smoking and alcoholism. Sensible behavior like protecting your eyes from bright sunlight with sunglasses that have UV (ultra violet) protection, ensuring that adequate light is used while reading, using a computer or doing small detail work and taking vitamins that contain antioxidants like zinc and lutein, are important steps to incorporate into your daily schedule to increase eye health.
Only a doctor of Ophthalmology (not an Optometrist) can conduct a thorough screening of your eyes to determine if disease or early warning signs of disease are present. The symptoms listed above are to alert you that something may be wrong and you should schedule an eye exam as soon as possible. Annual eye screenings are important for all African Americans, especially for those over 40, as many diseases of the eye result from the aging process.
Resolve to guard and protect your vision in 2006. Eyesight is one of our greatest gifts. Make sure that your vision remains clear and focused on all the good things that await you in the coming year.