Meigs Health Matters: You Only Get One Pair and No Spare!

By Leanne Cunningham - Special to Times-Sentinel

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senior portraits, professional portrait

I want you to take a moment to reflect on this motto from Prevent Blindness Ohio, “You only get one pair and no spare!” To what am I referring, you may ask; YOUR EYES! From the moment you wake up until you go to bed at night, your eyes are working to bring you the world. In fact, they deliver 80 percent of the information you take in every day — about your loved ones, your job, and all the things you love to see and do. That’s why it’s so important to keep them healthy and safe.

Did you know that most vision problems are preventable? It’s true. The following are some tips to keep your eyes healthy.

The first tip is you should get an eye exam. According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), more than 23 million American adults have never had an eye exam. Why? If their eyes feel healthy, it’s easy to assume they are healthy. But getting an eye exam is the only way to be sure.

The second tip is to know your family’s eye health history as eye problems often run in families.

Tip three is to give your eyes a rest; if they feel achy at the end of the day, it could be because you spent too much time on a computer or too long staring at one thing without blinking. A good rule of thumb to avoid this is the 20-20-20 rule, which is, every 20 minutes, look away from your work and focus about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds. This reduces eyestrain and helps your eyes feel better at the end of the day.

The fourth tip is to wear sunglasses, even on cloudy days, to help protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. When you purchase your sunglasses, buy a pair that blocks out 99 percet of both UVA and UVB light radiation. Add a wide-brimmed hat for even more protection.

Tip five is to eat eye-healthy foods, such as a variety of fruits and vegetables, especially carrots and dark leafy greens, such as kale and spinach. Also, research has shown that fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna and halibut are beneficial to eye health.

The sixth tip is to stay at a healthy weight; conditions like diabetes and other chronic health problems are more likely in those who are overweight or obese, and vision loss may occur as a result.

The seventh and final tip is to get plenty of physical activity. Any activity that gets your heart beating faster, like walking or dancing benefits your eye health. Of course, the added benefits to physical activity also include boosting your mood, reducing stress and helping to keep you at a healthy weight! Please remember to talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise regimen.

Given the above tips, it’s unfortunate to see so many individuals with eye problems that may have been avoided. According to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Save Our Sight Program, “Up to 15 percent of preschool children have an eye or vision condition that, if not corrected, can result in reduced vision. Twenty-five percent of school-aged children have a vision problem, and up to 5 percent percent of children have amblyopia (lazy eye).” This is why it is imperative that parents have their children’s vision screened early in life. Children may have a hard time expressing they are having trouble seeing. Look for the following: eyes don’t line up or looks crossed or outward, watery/red eyes, squinting, tilts/thrusts head forward, holds objects close to eyes to see, blinking more than usual, and reports things are blurry or hard to see.

According to Prevent Blindness Ohio (PBO), nearly two million Ohioans are facing visual impairment and blindness in the 40+ population. Some, but not even close to all conditions that affect adults, are: age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy. Early screening is integral to identify these conditions early so that conditions can be treated and perhaps slowed early on.

The Meigs County Health Department (MCHD) has programs that help residents to access vision concerns.

First, we have a program for children through ODH that helps with transportation to/from vision appointments. Funding for this program is limited, so the service is first come, first serve.

Second, the MCHD also helps facilitate the Prevent Blindness Ohio Program. This program is for both children and adults and is income-based. Financial guidelines are at 200% of the Federal Poverty Level for family size compared to yearly income: For 2018, they are: 1, $24,280; 2, $32,920; 3, $41,560; 4, $50,200; 5, $58,840; 6, $67,480; 7, $76,120; 8, $84,760; For each additional person, add $8,640. (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Federal Register, 1/18/18a) This program helps residents with eye exams and glasses. Local eye doctors contract with PBO to provide these free exams and PBO-approved glasses.

The final program we host is Children with Medical Handicaps, formerly BCMH. Also income-based, this program will help diagnose and treat certain eye problems. For more information on CMH, call Angie Rosler, RN at 740-992-6626. For the other programs discussed, call me at 740-992-6626.

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By Leanne Cunningham

Special to Times-Sentinel

Leanne Cunningham is the Director Nursing at the Meigs County Health Department.

Leanne Cunningham is the Director Nursing at the Meigs County Health Department.