May, also known as Healthy Vision Month, offers people living in the U.S. the perfect opportunity to prevent and address some of the most common eye problems by scheduling an eye exam. Taking good care of our eyesight should be a number-one priority at any age, because healthy vision can contribute a great deal to a safer, more active and more fulfilling lifestyle. Working in partnership with the National Eye Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages millions of Americans to improve their eye health and maintain good eyesight by undergoing a comprehensive, dilated-eye exam.
Perfect Eyesight Is an Invaluable Asset at Any Age
Regular eye exams are recommended for people of any age, including children and older adults. While the elderly tend to be more susceptible to vision problems, preschoolers could also be affected by vision problems that may be easy to diagnose and address. Unfortunately, according to the numbers revealed by the CDC, only 1 in 7 preschoolers undergo an eye exam, and fewer than 1 in 4 kids in this age group receive vision screening. Vision screening is recommended for all kids ages 3-5, to identify a number of conditions, such as lazy eye or amblyopia, which could be treated easily if diagnosed early.
Older adults, especially those whose medical and non-medical needs are being addressed by a long-term care facility, should also make the most of eye exams, so specialists can discover and treat a number of eye conditions that may lead to partial/temporary vision loss or blindness. The list of eye health concerns for the elderly includes: cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and macular degeneration (age-related). Other vision problems, including refractive errors, are easy to correct via laser surgery, contact lenses or glasses. However, at this point, even the least threatening conditions affect the vision, performance, self-esteem, appearance and overall quality of life of millions of Americans who do not have access to information and treatment options to improve or maintain their eyesight. According to recent statistics from the CDC, 11 million U.S-based individuals older than 12 could see better if they had eye surgery or used a type of ophthalmologist-approved corrective lenses.
9 Key Factors Leading to Healthy Vision:
The CDC’s Vision Health Initiative celebrates Healthy Vision Month by offering people access to the expert guidance they may require to take better care of their eyes and protect their vision in the long run. The CDC mentions nine different ways in which anyone could reach this goal. These preventive methods revolve around the following nine key elements:
• A comprehensive dilated eye exam
• A deeper understanding of one’s eye health history (family health history data is also relevant, given that some conditions or diseases are hereditary)
• A well-balanced diet based on nutritious, healthy foods that may contribute to a better eye health, such as dark, leafy greens (kale, spinach) or fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids
• Healthy weight
• Quality, protective eyewear used when playing sports or working in hazardous conditions
• The decision to quit smoking
• Sunglasses designed to block 99%-100% of all UVA and UVB radiation
• Workplace eye safety policies
• The correct method to clean, store and wear contact lenses
The Importance of Vision-Related Rehabilitation Services
According to the data provided by the American Foundation for the Blind, nearly 6.5 million Americans over 55 are visually impaired or blind. The same source predicts that the number of people dealing with these issues could double by 2030. In this context, providers of long-term care, including nursing homes, will need to meet the special needs of visually impaired people, who have to discover and apply new methods to accomplish daily, routine tasks. Physical, Occupational and Speech therapists can help this population acquire a wide range of essentials skills, such as communication skills, independent living skills, mobility skills, and therapy services for low-vision.
As experts in activity analysis and environmental modification, Occupational therapists (OT) can determine how visual impairments have limited a person’s ability to complete specific daily tasks. The OT can then modify the task and/or environment to minimize or remove those limitations. For example, an OT might restructure a task to remove a vision-dependent step, such as programming a telephone to speed dial emergency numbers, improving lighting in a space or creating a contrast by placing a white or yellow strip across steps or curbs to prevent falls. An OT also works with clients to ensure they are using their remaining vision as efficiently as possible. This may include teaching a person with central field loss how to use another part of the retina to see letters more clearly when reading medication labels.
As the CDC points out, individuals with poor eyesight are more likely to have or develop other health concerns, such as heart problems, diabetes or high blood pressure, than those who do not have any vision problems. Providing rehabilitation services for this population is vital given that vision-impaired or the blind are more exposed to other life-changing or life-threatening risk factors, such as depression, injury or falls.
Low Vision in Older Adults
Many older adults have Low Vision, or loss of eyesight that cannot be improved with regular glasses, surgery or medicine. Visual deficits can be caused from a neurological impairment such as a stroke/CVA, Alzheimer’s disease and/or age-related conditions and heredity. Not being able to regain your vision is a frustrating thing to live with. Therapy can help make the most out of a person’s remaining eyesight by structuring tasks and daily life in a new way to reduce falls, maintain independence and quality of life. Enjoying daily life while preventing balance problems and falls due to low vision issues is especially important for older adults and those living independently and in assisted living. A formal Low Vision program conducted by physical, occupational and speech therapists focuses on working within the patterns of vision and vision loss such as: central vision, peripheral vision, contrast sensitivity, depth perception and visual processing. Although not often thought of when thinking about low vision, therapists are an essential part of a diverse group of caregivers that are committed to empowering individuals living with low vision to optimize their safety, independence, and quality of life. To learn more about the benefits of low vision rehabilitation services, contact the team at HTS Therapy.
Celebrate and recognize Healthy Vision Month! The CDC’s Vision Health Initiative (VHI) provides simple tips to improve or maintain your eyesight. Simple Tips for Healthy Eyes