Are you noticing as you get older your vision isn’t what it used to be? We certainly are. So we asked Dr. Milhim I. Aswad of Dedham Opthalmic Consultants what we can do.
A corneal specialist, Dr. Aswad also practices as a general ophthalmologist to patients of many age groups. In addition to corneal disease, Dr. Aswad has a special interest in external disease and cataract surgery. He has been actively involved in teaching ophthalmology residents from BU and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary at the VA in Jamaica Plain. For several years, Dr. Aswad was Assistant Professor in Ophthalmology at tUMass Medical Center in Worcester. Dr. Aswad has been named twice the “Best Surgical instructor” by the graduating BU medical resident students. He’s currently on staff at Steward Norwood Hospital, Faulkner Hospital in Jamaica Plain and Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Needham.
Dr. Aswad, what’s the most important thing you would like our readers to know about our eyes as we age?
With the passive of time, annual eye visits are recommended as many diseases have no symptoms early on. In terms of cosmetics, it is always recommended to use hypoallergenic/water based products.
Issues that happen with the passage of time…
Cataract: 90% of people develop a cataract after age 65. It is a clouding/translucency of the natural lens. It is the counterpart of getting white hair. It requires surgery when functional vision becomes affected.
Dry eyes: As we get older, we produce fewer tears. This is especially true in women, where tear production is tied to hormonal changes. As we use our eyes at the computer or smartphone or tablet/book reader, this compounds the problem because of diminished blinking that accompanies these tasks. The winter months with their attendant indoor dry heat add to the problem.
Glaucoma: There is an increased incidence of glaucoma with advancing age. This is an eye disease where damage to the optic nerve happens because of increased eye pressure. It is comparable to having an overinflated car tire (an oversimplification). Most forms of glaucoma are without symptoms in the early stages and this makes an annual checkup all the more important. There is a hereditary component.
Macular degeneration: This is a disease that affects the center of the retina that is responsible for detailed vision. Early in the disease, there are no symptoms, which makes annual exams very important. There is a hereditary component.
Are there supplements that help keep our eyes healthy?
Multivitamins with the acronym AREDS2 are recommended for patients who have moderate to severe macular degeneration. These vitamins help slow down the disease but do not reverse it or cure it. The evidence comes from multi-year studies involving tens of thousands of patients. There is no current evidence of benefit in an eye that has no macular degeneration. I believe there is no harm either in taking this multivitamin formulation.
Are there things we can do – or not do – to help keep our eyes healthy?
UV protection is essential, as UV light can age one’s eyes prematurely. There is some evidence that prolonged exposure can make cataracts progress more rapidly, possibly affect macular degeneration, and facilitate the growth of pre- or cancerous masses on the surface of the eye.
Use the 20/20/20 rule for computer work: Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away from the screen for 20 seconds. Also be cognizant of blinking.
Avoid eye rubbing. If there is itching involved, it is likely that some allergic component is at play +/- dryness. Anti-allergy drops can be used. It is good to be proactive with the use of lubricating eye drops. If one gets scratchy/foreign body symptoms at a certain time, placing drops prior to the expected time might prevent the symptoms altogether.
Dedham Opthmalic Consultants | 980 Washington Street #120 | Dedham MA | 781.251.2222