Vision

Let’s Not Lose Focus On Good Eye Health

Protect aging vision with good eye health and see well into the future.

Sometimes we first notice an irritating blur when reading ingredient labels at the grocery store. Or maybe we’re in a dimly lit restaurant trying to discern the wine list when suddenly it’s impossible to choose a decent Chardonnay.

But perhaps the most common sign in a technology-driven society that our eyes need a checkup is when we experience difficulty reading or typing a text message on a cell phone or reading email on a computer screen.

It’s a fact of life: as we age, our vision naturally shifts as the lens of the eyes lose the ability to focus on near objects, a condition known as presbyopia.

Most changes, including presbyopia, typically aren’t severe and a new or updated prescription for glasses or contacts may the only requirement to adjust poor eyesight.

A prescription for eye glasses or contacts is just one measure to address vision issues. Routine eye care and examinations can extend healthy eye sight if issues are identified early and accurately. ~ Dr. Gerard Lozada

Gerard Lozada, OD, partner at Windmill Eye Care in Overland Park and recipient of the 2013 Distinguished Service Award from the Kansas Optometric Association for his work on Kansas’ Child Health Advisory Committee and the Blue Ribbon Panel on Infant Mortality, says age 45 was the magic number for his vision to change in the blink of an eye.

Story and photos by Kimberly Winter Stern.

“I couldn’t read the fine print on a menu or business cards without holding them at arm’s length,” says Dr. Lozada. “One day I was in my garden, looking at a plant and pulling leaves. Something looked strange and on closer inspection I realized the leaf was crawling with bugs.”

When Dr. Lozada had an eye exam and received a prescription for glasses, his vision woes were corrected. “it was that simple,” he says. “The tricky part came in leaving them on. I had never worn corrective lenses, kept taking my glasses off and losing them.”

According to Dr. Lozada, the normal change in the human eye begins for most in the late 30s or early 40s. “It’s a gradual process and is usually complete sometime during a person’s early 50s,” he says. “If someone has worn glasses or contacts since a young age, the change is more noticeable. For someone, like me, who has never worn corrective lenses, the differences in declining focus may be more subtle.”

Dr. Lozada promotes routine eye care and being aware of changes that occur in personal vision as two important factors in keeping tabs on eye health.

“When people have consistent eye exams, they have a history to share with their doctor, which is vital,” he says. “That baseline information offers insight into potential risks for developing certain eye diseases.”

Dr. Lozada recommends scheduling eye exams after age 40 at least every year. “Past age 65 definitely plan on seeing your provider annually,” he says.

In addition, Dr. Lozada emphasizes another concept of the aging eye: patience.

“A prescription someone receives during their 40s or 50s may last only a year or so because eyesight continues to change during that period of life,” he says. “That bothers many people who have never had to have vision correction before.”

Aging eyes can benefit from a reading prescription added to current glasses. “That might be progressive addition lens (PAL), otherwise known as multifocal,” says Dr. Lozada. “Or multifocal contact lenses might work better for someone else.”

The Eyes Have It

Many people are fanatics about personal health. They exercise regularly, eat healthy diets and are vigilant about things like consuming moderate amounts of alcohol and sweets. They drink gallons of water daily all in the name of good health and well-being.

Our delicate and precious eyes deserve the same kind of careful maintenance.

Dr. Gerard Lozada encourages common sense when it comes to good health. Bad habits like forgetting to wear sunglasses for protection from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, a lackluster diet or failing to schedule regular comprehensive eye exams can put our most indispensable sense in jeopardy.

“As we age, eye disease rate goes up,” says Dr. Lozada. “There’s a whole spectrum of reasons, including lack of proper diet or vitamins, smoking and alcohol consumption.”

Dr. Lozada cautions that neglecting optimum eye health as we age can increase the risk of developing disease or missing the opportunity for early prevention or treatment of conditions like dry eye syndrome, cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration.

Curious about how cataracts will affect your vision?

“Remember, the question about cataracts is not ‘Will I get them’ but rather when,” explains Dr. Lozada. “For some, they start impacting people’s quality of vision during their 50s and for others, it doesn’t happen until the 60s or 70s.”

A common eye condition caused by overgrowth of bacteria in eyelashes is blephartis, characterized by chronic inflammation of the eyelid.

“For some, bacteria colonizes around the sensitive eye area,” says Dr. Lozada. “Over-the-counter products like Ocusoft Lid Scrub can help relieve or greatly reduce symptoms.”

Glaucoma, the so-called silent thief of sight, has no symptoms and is detectable only through tests.

“It is the second leading cause of blindness in the U.S.,” says Dr. Lozada. “I use three different tests on every patient during every full examination to detect the disease. If the result of one of these tests seems unusual, the patient is retested. If the retest is still unusual, several tests more specific for glaucoma are performed on a different day.”

Dr. Lozada suggests it’s never too late to adopt good eye care.

“Put the game in your favor and do it now,” he says. “We can’t reverse the inevitable process of aging, but we can be proactive to enjoy healthy eyes for years to come.”