In honor of National Eye Care Month, schedule checkups

The month of January is dedicated to the promotion of healthy vision. We can start by protecting our eyes with sunglasses when we’re outdoors, goggles whenever we’re mowing the lawn or using machinery, and, yes, by eating carrots. Carrots contain beta-carotene that helps guard night vision and protection against macular degeneration.

Even if you don’t need glasses, an eye exam can help the doctor suggest treatment for problems like eyestrain and headaches. Staring at computers, TV screens and handheld devices intensifies these symptoms. Ask your eye doctor about the new orange or yellow tinted glasses available at drugstores.

Early AMD: Signs of age-related macular degeneration can be seen many years before vision is affected. Doctors may recommend vitamins C, A and E, or lutein, to slow or prevent AMD.

Presbyopia: the slow loss of ability to see close objects or small print, usually beginning at about age 40. A correct eyeglass prescription is important at this point.

Floaters: tiny spots that float across our field of vision. Although they aren’t usually a sign of trouble, in rare cases they can be a warning sign of retinal detachment.

Dry eyes: occur when our tear glands don’t make enough tears; can cause itching, burning, or some loss of vision. Eye drops may help, but an exam may reveal Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that has white blood cells attacking moisture-producing glands. Four million Americans have it.    

Cataracts: cloudy areas in part or all of the eye lens that keep light from passing through the lens, causing loss of eyesight. They form slowly and can usually be removed by surgery.          

Glaucoma: too much fluid pressure inside the eye. The cause is unknown, but it can often be controlled and blindness prevented. There are no early warning signs.

Vision checks often cost less than $40 and may even be fully covered by your insurance. Clinics may also provide free checkups in January. If you missed using your vision benefits last year, time to call for this year.

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