Some may be more prone to eyesight problems, but everyone’s at risk. Do you know enough about ocular health?
A grandparent may have told you that you could stave off myopia with a daily glass of carrot juice, and advertisements for sunglasses may have contributed to your knowledge about how UV rays can damage your eyes, but is the information you have accurate, and are you armed with all the necessary facts to keep your eyes healthy? See how many answers you get right.
Q Which is a bigger concern with regards to a child’s eyesight:
b) premature birth?
A: Premature birth
“A premature birth (when a child is born between at 24 to 30 weeks, instead of at 39/40 weeks) can affect the eyes in a big way,” Dr Nishant Kumar, consultant ophthalmologist, Hinduja Healthcare, points out. “Those who had a low birth weight, i.e., less than 1500 g are particularly at risk for eye problems, as are babies who were put in the ventilator — too much oxygen can cause retinal detachment or it may cause the blood vessels to grow and branch in an abnormal way, and the baby may develop retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a potentially blinding condition. It’s essential for premies or underweight babies to be checked by a trained eye doctor regularly right from birth until at least 32 weeks of gestational age or until the retina is normal.”
Dr Kumar adds, “In some cases the retinas may revascularise; if the abnormality is severe, the child may require injections in the eyes to prevent blindness.”
However, Dr Kumar does stress that genetics play a big role in eye health too. “A lot of things can cause abnormalities. One may have retinal dystrophies, where the retina doesn’t work properly, for instance. You may inherit the condition from your parents, or even if your parents don’t have the condition, but each had a bad gene, you may inherit that gene. It’s especially relevant in India, where consanguineous marriages (when you marry relatives) are common.”
Q You should get tested for glaucoma if:
a) you have a family history of diabetes/hypertension
b) your eyesight prescription changes frequently
c) you see halos around light sources at night time
A: B and C are indicators, but not everyone experiences symptoms
While the hereditary component plays a big role, Dr Pavitra Shanbhag Bhat, ophthalmologist, LH Hiranandani Hospital, says, “not everyone experiences symptoms. Some may see halos around light sources at night time, or have difficulty driving in dim-lit conditions; some have frequent headaches or their eyesight prescriptions may change often. But, some people may have advanced glaucoma and no signs of it at all. So, if you’re over 40 and have a family history of glaucoma, or if you have diabetes, blood pressure, or high cholesterol, you should get tested regularly.”
Q Which is most detrimental to your eye health: diabetes, hypertension or obesity?
“Diabetes is the Number 1 cause of blindness and vision loss among the working population,” says Dr Kumar. “It typically strikes from age 40 to 60 and a diabetic is often also hypertensive and obese. These conditions make one more susceptible to aggressive eye disease and problems of the eyes. Obesity, on its own, doesn’t affect the eyes. But, it can create pulmonary problems; the condition may cause the blood pipes to get choked and you may not sleep well — these may cause eye problems.
“To this, Dr Bhat adds, “Both diabetes and blood pressure are detrimental to ocular health. Diabetes can cause you to be more prone to eye infections, and trigger an earlier onset of cataract and retina changes. It can also predispose you to some forms of glaucoma.”
Hypertension, she says, “predisposes you to optic nerve related issues which may cause irreversible damage. Also, uncontrolled blood pressure can go hand in hand with increased eye pressure so it’s a double whammy.”
Q Which of these is true:
a) Eating carrots will stave off myopia
b) age related macular degeneration (ARMD) affects just a very tiny percentage of the population
c) Smoking damages the eyes
A: Only C is true.
Dr Bhat says, “Any fresh form of carotenoids — foods with the vitamins A and E — will improve eye stamina, but these will not improve your eyesight, or keep you from getting a number.”
“ARMD affects 10 per cent of the Indian population beyond the age of 70,” Dr Bhat highlights. “The dry form of the condition leaves you with fair amounts of vision, but you will always need glasses; the wet form requires active management (injections in the eye) and can cause irreversible vision loss.”
“And, smoking is a very common cause of blindness,” says Dr Kumar. Dr Bhat explains, “Smoking can cause the arteries to go into spasm and predispose you to strokes of the eye.” Dr Kumar adds, “Smoking has a close association with the genes that code for ageing in the retina. Therefore, smoking has a very deleterious effect and can accelerate ageing in the eye, causing an advanced form of ARMD.”