January 2020

Oh Say, Can you See? Essential maintenance for eye health

Author: Dr. Robert Szypczak

Good news for all you who may be having a hard time seeing! You’ve made it to the New Year, so you are finally seeing 2020! Well, the year that is. In all seriousness, we all know someone who is a chronic squinter, or perhaps you, yourself, have realized that your arms are just not quite long enough to read clearly anymore. Thankfully, Father Time is sending us a celestial reminder of sorts to ensure that you will take action to see clearly in the year 2020 and beyond. Yes, 2020 is the year of the eye, or at least that is what we eye doctors think!

It does bring up an important question. When was the last time you checked your eyes? Was it even in this century? Our vision is important, yet it is too often overlooked. A thorough eye exam isn’t just for those who recently turned 42 years old and suddenly can’t see their phone anymore! In fact, it’s important for all of us.

Ask anyone, what their greatest fear is. Likely, near the top of their list would be losing their vision. Yet, ask those same people when their last eye exam was, and most couldn’t even recall. Too often I hear people say, “I see just fine; therefore, my eyes must be fine.” Yet tragically, that is not always the case, as some are blindsided by sudden vision loss. The problem with the, “wait until I don’t see well,” philosophy is that many eye diseases need to be caught before you lose your vision. Sadly, some eye diseases show no signs until it is too late. Early detection will give us eye doctors a chance of stopping or at least slowing down the disease to help preserve your vision.

The fact is, eye care is a type of preventative healthcare. Sad but true, some of us take better care of our cars than we do our own bodies. Just as we perform preventative maintenance on our cars, so should we provide such care for our own eyes. Plus, what good is a running car if you don’t have the vision to legally drive it? Too many times I hear that the last eye exam someone had was 10 years ago because they failed the DMV vision test. Yet, when I ask that same person, “When was the last time that you went to the dentist?” They most often respond, “Oh, I go every six months.”

This makes me laugh because we must value eating more than we do seeing! That, or the dentists have secretly slipped some ingredient into toothpaste to brainwash us to return like clockwork every six months. Maybe we eye doctors need to do that same trick with those Visine eye drops. In all reality, we have 30 or so teeth and just two eyes. So, hopefully, you can see where I’m going with this. If you lose a tooth, a skilled dentist can make you a new one that works just fine. Yet, if you lose an eye, I can promise you that the prosthetic one will not work so well.

When should preventative eye care start? The most important eye exam in one’s life is the first, preferably around age five or even younger if you notice a problem. This is because a child may not know that they don’t see well if they don’t even know what good vision looks like. Plus, vision is the first of our five senses to develop to full adult-like levels, and this all happens during the first 10 years of life. If a vision problem in one or both eyes goes undetected during these first 10 critical years of development, the child will most likely suffer for the rest of his or her life with a lazy eye. This means that they may never be able to achieve 20/20 capabilities in one or both eyes when they are older. Plus, it is thought that up to 80 percent of kids who are struggling in school have some sort of vision problem holding them back. Combine this fact with the fact that 80 percent of what we learn comes from our eyes, and you can see how important it is for students to have routine eye exams. Honestly, there is no other school supply as important as clear vision!

It is 2020, but is your vision 20/20? Make one of your New Year’s resolutions to see an eye doctor this year. There are numerous great optometrists and ophthalmologists in the area, so give yourself the gift of sight! Till then, I’ll be seeing you, and hopefully, you’ll being seeing me in 2020!

Dr. Robert Szypczak (Dr. “Ship-chak”) is an optometrist at The Eye Site and has offices on Hilton Head Island (843-681-3396) and in Bluffton (843-757-9588).

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