Eye conditions can occur at any age, and proactive care can help you enjoy your sight in the long run.
Richard Nepomuceno, M.D., F.P.A.O, is an ophthalmologist at Pacific Eye and Laser Institute (PELI) who specializes in LASIK vision correction, cataracts, corneal transplants and eye infections. When it comes to the most common complaint of people who consult him, Dr. Nepomuceno says it’s “blurring of vision.” Whether caused by age, or a symptom of cat-scratch disease, or congenital factors, it often boils down to what the ophthalmologist terms as “errors of refraction. Basically, may grado ang mata, whether it’s nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism or a combination of all three.” After blurry vision, eye-related diseases are the next common complaint, such as pinkeye or cataracts.
The ophthalmologist goes on to explain what generally underlies eye conditions. “What dictates the basic prescription of the eye is the anatomy of the eye. [In general,] the grade is dictated by the length of the eyeball, and the curvature of the cornea. It’s not because of what we ate, or because we watched too much TV … Genetics play some part [in] it,” he points out, alluding to how some families have many members who wear thick eyeglasses.
If you find yourself requiring eye drops more than usual, you may need to take a look at your surroundings, or asses your eye health. Dry eyes may be caused by constant exposure to air-conditioning or a fan, or may be a symptom of a disease—and using the proper ophthalmic lubricant helps in managing the condition.
Dr. Nepomuceno says blinking less is usually part of the reason dry eyes develop, such as when you stare at a TV, computer monitor or book. “What you need to do is, for every one hour [you spend] staring at something, try about five minutes of not staring—or break the staring [and rest your eyes]. … Look outside your window [observing things, not staring], or just close your eyes,” he advises.
What’s the doctor’s stand on supplementation to improve eyesight? The doctor diplomatically refers to the fine print found on many of these products, which often says “no approved therapeutic claims,” but adds, “[They’re] fine if [they deliver] what you expect from them. If you expect the supplement to bring down the grade of your eye, that’s not going to happen—or magically transform your cataract into a new lens like when you were 20 years old. … [But] supplements have a role in age-related macular degeneration, [because] some types are responsive to the proper nutrients. … For the most part, it’s like delaying the damage …slows it down, but as a full-spectrum cure, not really.”
When it comes to caring for one’s eyes, Dr. Nepomuceno recommends the daily use of sunglasses or eyewear that protects against ultraviolet (UV) rays to minimize the damage our peepers may encounter in our daytime activities. Your best option may be buying a reliable brand from a reputable optometrist. Photochromic lenses, which change color and function as sunglasses outdoors and allow the wearer use them indoors as ordinary glasses, also have a layer of UV protection. And if your eyeglasses aren’t tinted but are multicoated, Dr. Nepomuceno assures that one of those coats utilizes UV protection as well—but size matters when it comes to protective eyewear. “John Lennon-type [granny] glasses don’t offer much protection,” he opines, and when asked if Jackie O styles would be much better, he grins and says they’re back in style anyway, adding, even the “ones worn by Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible” are also suitable.
If you’ve experienced the bewilderment of suddenly having to adjust your normal reading distance, welcome to middle age. Presbyopia happens “when the autofocus of the eye gets weaker and weaker as you grow older,” explains Dr. Nepomuceno, who adds that it’s just like having white hair and wrinkles. “It happens around the age of 40. Some people have it earlier, or some are blessed and have it later. But it does happen.” And if you haven’t gone to see an eye doctor for years, this would be a good time to start. Presbyopia can be minimized with the help of an ophthalmologist, who may advise LASIK surgery to treat the condition to a certain extent.