In February, we take a moment to focus on one of the five senses: the sense of sight. Whether it is the most important sense is debatable, though it’s often thought to be from portrayals in literature and some experiences in our daily lives. What we can all agree on is that those who have sight take in a lot of information from it every minute of every day, and it’s useful in many parts of life. This is not to say that those who have little or no sight don’t lead worthwhile and enjoyable lives; they do. But if you have vision, you probably want to keep it. So let’s talk about how we can care for our eyes, and what we can do in the event that blindness or low vision comes.
Zooming In on Eye Care
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 6 million Americans live with blindness or vision loss. Of these, only 1.6 million are under the age of 40. This would remind us of the fact that we lose vision as we age. So how do we take care of the part of the body from which that sense comes? Here are a few tips:
- Regular Eye Exams: Be sure to visit the eye doctor annually to check your vision and look for the appearance of conditions like glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration. This is particularly important for people who have diabetes because diabetic retinopathy can be an additional concern.
- Healthy Diet: Vitamins A, C and E are helpful in eye health. It’s great to keep carrots, leafy greens, nuts, and fruits in your diet.
- The 20-20-20 Rule: For all of us who are constantly on our phones or computers, here’s a rule I literally just learned about as I was researching for this article. Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- Managing Chronic Conditions: As mentioned previously, diabetes can affect eyesight. So can hypertension. So if you have a chronic condition that affects the eyes, be sure to manage it well.
- Hydration and Resting of the Eyes: When there’s so much out there to see, it’s hard to rest your eyes. But our eyes can only take so much in a day so like the rest of our body, they need a break. As for hydration, that’s just what the body needs to keep going, so it’s a good idea to keep up with it.
So I’m Low Vision… What’s Next?
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, blind and low-vision people lead normal, productive, and enjoyable lives. So, if you are diagnosed with a condition that causes low vision or blindness, the first thing to remember is that there is still a bright future ahead of you. There are also a lot of high-tech and low-tech devices that can make your life easier. For example, a magnifier or a CCTV can help you see your computer screen better; large print or Braille can help you read more easily; a screen reader will convert to speech what you would have read on your screen; various labeling aids can help in the kitchen and other parts of the house; a white cane can help you travel with more confidence; and much, much more.
There are various organizations and agencies throughout the state of Maryland where you can find services, technology assistance, and peer support from people who are dealing with the same issues you are. In fact, we at the IMAGE Center have several blind and low-vision people on our team (including myself) who would be glad to answer your questions. We also offer the Bridges Resource Library, brought to you by our Bridges Technical Assistance Center program, which offers a wealth of articles specifically for blind and low-vision people. If you have questions or need to know where to go for services, contact us here at the IMAGE Center.
We hope you’ll use this February as a time to take care of your eyes and celebrate those who are thriving with low vision. As always, stay tuned to this blog and our social media to know what’s happening with the IMAGE Center and our IMAGE Wellness Series!