Protecting your Eye Health

Chances are, you may not think much about your everyday eyesight, even if you wear corrective lens. But did you know that even the most innocuous itchy or watery eyes can be signs of a more serious eye disease? January is National Eye Care Month set aside for focusing on the importance of your eye health. 

Your vision is a coordinated effort of your eye and brain working together. The main parts of your eye include the cornea, lens, retina and optic nerve, which all turn light and electrical signals into visual images you can see. 

Several conditions can interfere with your ability to see clearly. Aging presents increased risks for eye disorders and visual impairment. Injuries may cause damage to the cornea or lens and certain infections and chronic illnesses can also distort your eyesight. The whole of healthcare is really inclusive in the eye because so many diseases can be diagnosed, treated and managed by examining the eye.

Conditions That Can Affect Vision

The following are some of the most common health conditions and diseases that can affect your vision.


Diabetes, the high blood sugar level disorder, is the leading cause of blindness in the United States today. With proper care and management, people with diabetes should be able to live a happy, full life. But if you get behind in diabetes care for the eye, it is very difficult to treat.

Diabetes is a blood vessel disease and the eye is the most highly vascularized organ in the body. If a person is diabetic, the blood vessels in the eye will definitely be affected. The eye is the only place in the body where we can observe the blood vessels in place. We can look through the cornea, through the lens to the retina and the blood vessels that are on the surface. We can observe microaneurysms and hemorrhages and other changes within the eye involved in diabetes.

Treating Diabetes Can Prevent Blindness
You can’t look into your kidney or spleen to diagnose diabetes, but we can look inside the eye to find diabetic eye disease. If we discover diabetic retinopathy, blood vessel damage in retina tissue at the back of the eye, then usually the patient will have similar changes in their kidneys, brain and other organs as well. A thorough dilated eye exam can give an indication of how the whole body is doing in regards to diabetes.

Diabetes is a preventable form of blindness. That’s why it’s important to get regular eye exams and work with your provider on treating diabetes successfully. 

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure also called hypertension is another leading cause of blindness. If your blood pressure is consistently elevated, it can cause hemorrhages inside the eye that can damage the light-sensitive retina. The blood vessel impairment can restrict blood flow to the retina (vascular occlusion) causing blurry vision and complete loss of vision. Diabetics with high blood pressure are at a higher risk for developing this retinopathy condition. 

Regular Health Checkups Can Save Your Eyes 
High blood pressure can also cause of buildup of fluid under the retina (choroidopathy) and cause visual distortion and sometimes scarring. Damage to the optic nerve from blocked blood flow is called optic neuropathy which can kill eye nerve cells and lead to temporary or permanent sight loss. Having high cholesterol can also cause similar eye disturbances as high blood pressure does. Monitoring both your blood pressure and cholesterol through regular preventive care can go a long way in protecting your eye health. 


Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damages the optic nerve in the back of your eye. In its early stages, glaucoma is a silent disease with no symptoms. Over time, people with glaucoma experience increased internal eye pressure and start to lose their peripheral (side) vision. Eventually, a person who is not treated for glaucoma will go blind. Glaucoma has increasing prevalence as you get older and certain medications such as steroids, anti-cancer drugs and anesthesia agents can increase eye pressure. 

Early Intervention Is Crucial
Glaucoma is easily and successfully treated in the early stages. It is difficult to control once you get to the severe stage. A comprehensive dilated eye exam helps us test for glaucoma measuring the pressure inside each eye. We also look at the optic nerve to see if it’s healthy. A telltale sign of glaucoma is the ganglion cells of the optic nerve start to die and the optic nerve gets a little depression and starts to hollow out.


A cataract appears as a cloudy area in the lens of the eye, which is the clear part of the eye that focuses light. Cataracts most commonly occur as we age. The National Eye Institute reports that more than half of Americans 80 years or older have cataracts or have had cataract surgery. But cataracts can appear much earlier. My youngest patient cataract patient was age 32 and my oldest was age 93. 

An Aging Eye Is Most Susceptible to Cataracts
Typically, we detect cataracts in patients in their mid-50s, but it takes another decade or more for cataracts to grow. Besides an aging eye, a cataract can occur from an eye injury or after surgery for another eye condition. At first, you may not notice a cataract, but as a cataract develops over time, it can turn vision hazy, blurry and less colorful. You may also notice diminished night vision, a halo around lights and double vision. If left unchecked, a cataract can lead to vision loss. Fortunately, cataract surgery is safe and quite effective.

Dry Eye

The cornea, the clear front part of your eye, doesn’t have any blood vessels, so tears provide the nutrients and transmission of oxygen to keep the cornea tissue healthy. Tears are as important to your eye as blood is to the rest of your body. If you don’t make enough tears or your tears don’t work well enough to keep your eyes wet, it can cause problems with your eyes. One of them is simply comfort. 

Dry eye can also cause eye and eyelid infections and blurry vision. Chronic dry eye causes an inflammatory disease in the eye that generally has to be treated with a steroid because the glands that make the tears will not function properly in the presence of inflammation.

You are more at risk for dry eye if you are age 50 or older, wear contact lenses and are a female. You are more likely to get dry eye if you lack vitamin A found in foods like broccoli and carrots or you do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, walnuts and vegetable oils. Autoimmune conditions such as Sjögren syndrome and lupus also make you more susceptible to dry eye. 

Tearing Up Is Good Medicine
If you have burning, scratchy or red eyes, especially upon waking in the morning, these are symptoms of dry eye. A full layer of tears is an excellent optical surface, but if the tears get thin and rough, it’s like driving in the rain without turning on your windshield wipers. But more importantly, if you don’t have enough tears, your eye and your eyelids aren’t getting the nutrition and immune support that they need. 

We stare at computer and tablet screens all day long, and when we concentrate and fix our eyes, we don’t blink. When we don’t blink, we don’t make tears, and this causes eye dryness. Taking brief breaks from staring at screens and blinking more can relax the focusing system and refresh the tears. Also using a good-quality lubricant eye drop is important. But don’t use the get-the-red-out products because they are decongestants and make your eyes drier. 

As part of a comprehensive dilated eye exam, we check for dry eye. We can also examine the glands above your eyes that make tears and determine the number of tears your eyes make and how long it takes for your tears to dry up. For more serious dry eye, a prescription medicine such as Restasis can help your eyes produce more tears. 

If tears drain too quickly from your eyes, you may be a candidate for punctal plugs put in your tear ducts, the small holes in the inner corners of your eyes. The plugs help tears stay in our eyes. If your lower eyelids are too loose, surgery can help to stop tears from draining too quickly from your eye. 

Proactive Steps for Better Eye Care

Often lifestyle changes can help protect your eyes before you experience problems. You can boost your eye health if you:

  • Limit screen time and take regular breaks to rest your eyes
  • Avoid wind, smoke and air conditioning
  • Wear wraparound sunglasses outdoors
  • Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air inside your home
  • Drink 8 to 10 glasses every day
  • Eat an assortment of vegetables
  • Stop smoking

By age three, children should have a thorough eye exam to establish a baseline for their visual development and check for congenital problems. We then check the eyes again in kindergarten and every year after that for one’s lifetime. 

Here at Think Whole Person Healthcare, our system of collaborative care and instant communication really does work well for diagnosing and treating diseases of the body that affect the eye and diseases that we find in the eye. If during an eye exam, I feel the patient needs further attention by their doctor, I can instantly communicate with another healthcare provider in the building and together we can take the best care of the patient in a timely matter. As an eye care professional who spent years in private practice, I value that at think all the practitioners do an excellent job of providing full spectrum healthcare.


Think Whole Person Healthcare makes it easy to receive both preventive care and treatment for a wide range of health conditions. From thoroughly examining eyes to monitoring blood sugar to setting a broken bone, our physicians, advanced practice providers and specialists are committed to you and your family’s lifelong health and well-being.Our walk-in clinic treats anyone, even those who are not a think patient or do not have a primary care provider currently. To learn more about our comprehensive healthcare services, visit our Services page online and choose your own think medical professionals by visiting our Meet Your Doctor page. 

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