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10 Steps to Prevent Vision Loss

March is Save Your Vision Month, a time to raise public awareness about how to protect your eyes and your vision. Most people aren’t aware that 75% of potential vision loss can be prevented or treated. This largely depends on patients being proactive and educated about their eye health.

Here are 10 important steps to protect and preserve your precious eyesight:

  1. Regularly have your eyes checked: For a number of eye diseases, early detection and treatment is critical to success in saving your vision. Many conditions - such as diabetic eye disease, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and glaucoma - have minimal or no symptoms, particularly in the early stages. A comprehensive dilated eye exam is sometimes the only way to detect eye disease early enough to save your sight and prevent vision loss.
  2. Know your family history: A number of eye diseases involve genetic risk factors, including glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Be aware of the incidence of eye disease in your family and if you do have a family history make sure to be monitored regularly by a trusted eye doctor.
  3. Wear sunglasses: Exposure to UVA and UVB rays from sunlight is associated with a higher risk of AMD and cataracts. Wear sunglasses with 100% UV protection year round, any time you are outdoors. It’s worthwhile to invest in a pair of quality sunglasses which will have UV protection that lasts, as well as better glare protection and optics.
  4. Eat healthy: Diet plays a large role in eye health, especially certain nutrients such as antioxidants, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins and minerals found in leafy green and orange vegetables. Keep your diet low in fat and sugar and high in nutrients and you can reduce your risk of developing AMD or diabetes, two of the leading causes of blindness.  
  5. Stop smoking: Smokers are four times more likely to develop AMD.
  6. Wear eye protection: If you play sports, use power tools or work with dangerous equipment or chemicals, make sure to wear proper safety glasses or goggles to protect your eyes from injury. Never take risks as many permanent eye injuries happen within seconds.
  7. Manage diabetes: If you have diabetes or hyperglycemia, manage your blood sugar levels to reduce the risks of diabetic retinopathy.
  8. Limit alcohol intake: Heavy drinking is associated with higher risks of developing cataracts and AMD.
  9. Exercise: Yet another benefit of regular physical activity is eye health including reduced risk of AMD.
  10. Educate yourself: Below is some basic information about four of the most common vision impairing eye conditions.

4 Most Common Eye Conditions:

  • Cataracts

Typically an age-related disease, cataracts cause a clouding of the lens of the eye which impairs vision.  You can’t completely prevent this condition as more than half of individuals will develop a cataract by the time they are 70-80 years old. Cataract treatment involves a common surgical procedure that is one of the safest and most commonly performed medical procedures with a 98% success rate.

  • AMD (age-related macular degeneration)

A progressive condition that attacks central vision, AMD usually affects individuals 50 and older. Disease progression may be slow and early symptoms minimal, making an eye exam critical in early detection. Risk factors include race (more common in Caucasians), family history, age, UV exposure, lack of exercise, smoking and poor diet and nutrition. AMD can cause irreversible vision loss. While there is no cure, the progression of the vision loss can be slowed or halted when caught early. Individuals often develop a condition called low-vision which is not complete blindness but does require a change in lifestyle to deal with limited eye sight.

  • Glaucoma

Glaucoma is the 2nd leading cause of blindness worldwide, resulting from damage to the optic nerve most often caused by pressure build up in the eye. Vision loss is progressive and irreversible. Studies show that 50% of people with the disease don’t know they have it. While there is no cure, early detection and treatment can protect your eyes against serious vision loss and if caught early enough vision impairment could be close to zero. Risk factors include old age, diabetes, family history, ethnic groups (African Americans and Mexican Americans have higher risk factors), and previous eye injury.

  • Diabetic retinopathy

The most common diabetic eye disease, this is a leading cause of blindness in adults which is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina. All people with diabetes both type 1 and type 2 are at risk, and the disease can often progress without symptoms, so regular eye exams are essential to prevent permanent vision loss. Regular eye exams and maintaining normal blood sugar levels are the best ways to protect vision.

The best way to protect your vision is to be informed, develop healthy habits and to get your eyes checked regularly. See you soon!

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Dear Patients,

As of Tuesday evening, March 17th, the CDC has recommended that all routine eye care be deferred until further notice, in order to slow the transmission of COVID-19 through our community.

Please be assured that we are still available to triage all urgent and emergent calls during this challenging time.

We are officially closing our offices effective at 3:00pm today, March 20 th and tentatively plan to reopen on April 1 st . We are rescheduling all routine visits and are available by phone to triage ocular emergencies.

Our phone lines will be open:

Monday the 23 rd and 30 th : 10:00am to 5:00pm

Tuesday-Friday (24 th -27 th and the 31 st ): 9:00am to 3:00pm

What does this mean?

1) If you are scheduled for an annual eye examination we will tentatively reschedule you starting April 1 st

2) If you are running out of a medication please contact us and we can transmit a refill electronically to your pharmacy.

3) If you have an issue which cannot wait for an office visit, contact us and we will schedule a Telephone appointment with one of our doctors. Medicare has temporarily relaxed its telehealth rules to allow this type of communication during the pandemic crisis. Other insurers may follow suit and allow for reimbursement of virtual care costs. The consultation must be initiated at your request.

4) If you have an ocular emergency we are, as always, available to help you at any time. Call 1-850-455-0120 andwait for instructions at the end of the message.

Dr. Leonard or Dr. Charbonneau will discuss your condition by phone and make the best treatment decision for you on a one on one basis.

5) Please remember that 80% of COVID-19 cases are mild and resolve within a week. However, if you feel your symptoms are worsening, call ahead before visiting your doctor’s office or emergency department and tell them you have or may have COVID-19. This will help the office protect themselves and other patients.

The CDC has many wonderful resources. Arming yourself and your family with clear information will help you avoid undue stress.

https://bit.ly/2WxWYIe and https://bit.ly/33FBlXZ

Together we will weather this storm.

With sincerest wishes for your continued good health we remain at your service,

Dr. Clare L Leonard

Dr. Mary Charbonneau