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January a good time to focus on eye health

By Messenger Staff | Published Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Do you have a clear picture of your eye health needs?

For those who already wear contacts or glasses, an annual exam is part of their routine, but eye doctors recommend regular checkups for everyone – to monitor not only their vision, but also their eye health.

January is National Eye Care Month and the perfect time to give thought to your vision needs.

Dr. Rebecca Bradford of Decatur says eye health concerns change with age. As a youngster, clear vision is the primary issue, but as you age, eye disease and prevention should be considered.

Bradford said children should receive an eye exam in kindergarten or first grade to ensure they have good vision.

“Most pediatricians do tests in their offices, but I recommend school age kids come in for a routine checkup especially if there is a family history.

“If mom or dad had to get glasses in second grade, there’s a good chance their child may also need glasses.”

She said children should also be checked as teenagers because big growth spurts are often marked by the onset of nearsightedness.

“The eyeball starts growing longer, and it makes them near-sighted,” she explained. Bradford said this could happen at any age when there is significant growth, but it’s more common in pre-teens and teenagers.

As an individual approaches 40 or 45, Bradford said it’s not uncommon to need reading glasses, and this is the age bracket in which signs of certain eye diseases may begin to appear.

If these are caught through routine exams, treatment can often be administered.

By age 65, the concern shifts to cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration.

“Glaucoma is a sneaky disease,” Bradford said. “By the time you realize it’s bad, it’s already done damage,” which is why she recommends regular checkups at this age, even if you don’t notice a change in your vision or have other concerns. Early diagnosis is key.

Obviously, a sudden change in vision at any age warrants a trip to the eye doctor, as does any loss of vision or pain in the eye.

Bradford said no matter the age, if a person experiences discomfort or problems with their vision, she recommends they visit a doctor immediately, even if it seems minor.

“I would rather them come in,” said Bradford. “A lot of times, they’ll think it was one thing, but it turns out to be something else. So if they’re concerned at all, they should come in.”

Bradford has been practicing optometry for 27 years and has had an office in Decatur since 1997.

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