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New Year~New You!

It’s a new year and everyone is making goals for the new year. The most popular goals are in the areas of improving finances and health. My goal in this blog is help you achieve optimal health.

I want to start by urging you to have an annual physical and eye exam with dialtion…….even if you feel OK. Many of my patients come in after being away for two, three, four or more years. Some of them with systemic diseases that effect the eyes. When I ask about this they say ” I know but……”

The doctor can signs of disease even when there are no symptoms. Some diseases do not have symptoms until they are far advanced. They will continuously harm you unless diagnosed and treated.

An easy way to remember your yearly exams is to associate it with a significant date such as your birthday or an anniversary….what a lovely gift for yourself or others who care about you.

Hypertension, diabetes and glaucoma has been called ” The Three Silent Killers” by the National Optometric Association. These three have reached epidemic proportions in our society. They are an example of how eye health is affected by systemic disease. Unfortunately anyone can develop these diseases. However, if you are of African descent, aged 40-55 or have someone in your family with these diseases then you are at a higher risk for them.

The diagnosis for hypertension (also known as high blood pressure) is made after blood pressure readings of 140/90 (130/80 if diabetic) on two or more doctor visits. A normal blood pressure reading is 120/80. The higher pressure makes the blood vessels more rigid and thus the blood is less able to bring enough nutrients and oxygen to tissues of the body. Simply put, the tissues can’t function well without “food and air”. Untreated hypertension can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, retina and optic nerve damage. It, like diabetes, is managed by prescription medication and/or lifestyle changes in diet and exercise.

Diabetes is a disease that involves elevated blood sugar levels. In addition to the risk factors mentioned above, obesity is thought to play a large role in developing diabetes. The excess sugar damages the blood vessels and like hypertension makes it more difficult to get the blood to all areas of the body.

Your eye doctor can see signs of these diseases and will work with other health professionals to keep you healthy. However, the diagnosis for diabetes and hypertension is made by your primary care physician, not your eye care provider.

Glaucoma is a group of diseases which cause optic nerve damage and lead to vision loss. Current theory suggest that glaucomic optic nerve damage can be due to an insufficient amount of blood getting to the eye. Blood vessels already weakened by hypertension or diabetes are stressed even further by high eye pressure. The risk factors for the most common types of glaucoma are the same ones mentioned above for hypertension.

Glaucoma is traditionally diagnosed by signs of high eye pressure and/or abnormal optic nerves and blind spots. It is possible to have glaucoma and not have high eye pressure. Measuring the corneal thickness and taking a “picture” of the retina with tests such an OCT or HRT are becoming standard of care for diagnosis. Research is showing that major changes in the structures of the eye usually precede vision loss that’s why you may have glaucoma and not even notice it. Glaucoma is managed by eye drops and sometimes surgery. There is no cure but management results in preservation of good vision.

I can not overemphasize that these devastating diseases do not have symptoms until they are well advanced. It’s a NEW YEAR! Let’s start it with a NEW YOU!Don’t just read my words………. put them into action! Schedule those appointments for your annual physical and dilated eye exam!