National Eye Care Awareness Month is marked from 21 September to 18 October, and it seeks to raise awareness of the importance of good eye health. Jamey Gordon spoke to local optometrist Donovan Savage to get the low-down. ) What is the significance of National Eye Care Month? We take our eyes for granted, and it is only when we experience problems that we realise their importance. National Eye Care Month helps to educate us on the importance of regular examinations and looking after one’s eyes. ) How important is eye care? Good eyesight is an important part of our well-being and plays a significant factor in retaining independence and quality of life. Regular eye examinations help identify problems early, which helps prevent loss of eyesight. ) What are common eye disorders/conditions and how can it be prevented? Common eye disorders include Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), cataracts and Strabismus. Unfortunately they cannot be prevented, but there are means of helping people with the above conditions. Speak to your optometrist to find out more. ) Is there a difference in eye care for those wearing glasses and dependent on contact lenses, compared to those who do not have problems with their vision? No, there is no real difference in eye care. People who don’t have visual problems should also have regular eye examinations, for prevention’s sake. What are the treatments for common eye disorders/conditions? 1. Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) – treatment that can help includes avastin injections, although it can’t be cured. Supplements can be beneficial to these patients.2. Cataracts – treating cataracts involves having an eye operation, where the old cloudy lens is replaced by an artificial lens.3. Strabismus – can be treated through the use of spectacles, visual therapy and, as a last resort, surgery. ) What can be done to protect or prolong one’s vision? Regular eye examinations are important in protecting one’s eyes. Wearing sunglasses also reduces UV damage. Stop smoking, and reduction in alcohol consumption can help protect one’s eyes. Taking regular breaks away from the computer helps with reducing strain on your eyes. ) What foods can be eaten to ensure healthy eyesight? The best foods one can eat for healthy eyes include fish, nuts, legumes, seeds, citrus fruits, leafy green vegetables, carrots and sweet potatoes. When should one’s eye be examined? And that of children? Children should have their first eye examination at six months old, then again at three, five and six years old. Afterwards they should be assessed every year to monitor visual development.Adults between age 18 and 60 years should have an eye examination every two years. Adults older than 60 should have an annual eye examination. What symptoms of eye conditions does one need to look out for in children? Signs that may indicate a vision problem include frequent eye rubbing or blinking, a short attention span, avoiding reading or other close tasks, frequent complaining of a headache, closing one eye and holding reading books close to their eyes.If you are aware of these difficulties please bring your children in for a full visual and binocular evaluation. ) Why does one’s eye twitch? The cause of eyelid twitching includes stress, fatigue and too much caffeine. Treatment includes taking time out of one’s day to relax, limiting caffeine intake, applying a warm compress to the eye and massaging it with one’s fingers. What does it mean to be colour-blind? Actually the correct term for colour blindness is Colour Vision Deficiency. A person with a colour vision deficiency struggles to distinguish between certain colours correctly. It actually runs in families and there is no cure for it. Loss of colour vision in adults may indicate certain eye diseases such as Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) or Glaucoma. ) How can good eyesight be measured? Visual acuity (eyesight) is measured using a Snellen Eye Chart. Eye charts help measure how well one sees from a distance and/or near. The smaller the letters the better one’s eyesight is. Will staring at a screen for hours on end or sitting too close to the TV hurt one’s eyes? Although sitting too close to a TV isn’t known to cause health issues, it can lead to eye strain. This can lead to focusing difficulties, headaches, eye discomfort and blurred vision. Staring at your screen all day, without taking breaks, can lead to blurred vision, eye strain and long-term vision problems, such as myopia (near-sightedness). Studies have shown that by 2050 50% of the world’s population will be near- sighted owing to the prolonged screen time. ) What lifestyles changes can one make? [Linked to question 13] As parents, one needs to encourage one’s children to play outdoors more and spend less time on their digital devices – cellphone/tablet/computer/TV. It is important that adults and children take regular breaks when working on computers/tablet/phones. It may be necessary to provide children with visual systems, to help cope with eye strain. Spectacles with specific coatings, such as Blue Protect from Zeiss or Blue Control from Hoya, help neutralise blue light emitted from LED devices. How will you commemorate the month dedicated to eye care? Are there any special events or promotions? For Eye Care Month we will have special promotions on various branded sunglasses, including Oakley, Puma, Rayban, Polaroid and Boss. Come and view the latest styles and get your eyes ready for summer. ) What is the benefit to eye drops? Lubricating eye drops, also called artificial tears, help by adding moisture to one’s eyes. Patients who wear contact lenses will also benefit from lubricating eye drops, which help to keep their contact lenses moist. During springtime many people struggle with itchy eyes and require anti-histamine eye drops to help sooth their eyes. If in doubt about the eye drops one needs please speak to your optometrist.