• Thu, Mar 21 2013

What Your Eyes Can Reveal About Your Health (And Why You Shouldn’t Ignore It)

shutterstock_109210520When it comes to maintaining good eye health, those cherry-red Prada glasses you keep passing in the window are not the end of the discussion. Along with your general doctor and gynecologist, an eye doctor is also key.

But you have 20/20 vision? Keep reading. Eye problems can sneak up on people whose vision was previously perfect–as evidenced by my own eye history. If you’ve never seen an eye doctor before, you may want to consider it just to be sure you’re in the clear. 

Why? Because your eyes are windows to not just “the soul” but your body, also. When you have your eyes examined, you’re clued in to what’s really going on inside. Like a lot of women who are busy with work and life, I used to blatantly ignore my eye health. The rest of my body was the priority, right? Wrong. Everything is connected.

Get this: A few years ago, I started wearing contacts. When they began to irrirate my eyes, I chalked it up to overuse, or allergies—and so did my optometrist. My eyes were red, painful, swollen and extremely sensitive to light for months. Even using contacts sparingly, my pain and vision issues worsened. I decided I needed to see an opthalmalogist, who confirmed my fears: I had an autoimmune disorder, and I was suffering from bouts of painful Uveitis.

I had several blood-tests that determined the Uveitis was associated with rheumatoid arthritis, which was just beginning to flare up in me. It wasn’t my contacts or the Spring allergens after-all.

For a week, I wore a pirate patch to keep the light out of my eyes. Some people might find that oddly sexy, but I definitely wasn’t part of that consensus! Want to avoid a similar fate? Here are a few other vision health facts to keep in sight.

You’re Not Too Young For Age-Related Eye Problems

When we think of cataracts and glaucoma, we generally think of our grandparents. While that’s often the case, there are plenty of age-related eye problems that can begin to take hold in your 20s or 30s.

Early detection, like anything, is key. Young, healthy women should visit their doctors and have them check for pressure irregularities. Problems aren’t always something you’ll feel or detect on your own, and definitely can sneak up on you over the years.

I’m grateful I found out about my eye condition when I did, because I was able to medicate quickly and properly. Prolonged use of some over-the-counter medicines, like steroid eye drops, can actually cause and/or worsen cataracts—even in young women like you and I.

Contact Overuse Is Common

Even if you’re not suffering from an eye disorder, you might—like so many of us—be a contact user. And if you’re a contact user, there’s a good chance you’re a contact over-user, too. If you often find yourself working late and forgetting to take your contacts out, beware. Staring at a screen, rubbing your eyes and having dry contacts can lead to a whole plethora of pretty gross issues.

Wear your contacts sensibly. Really. Keeping your lenses clean, knowing when to take them out (when they’re bothering you!) and keeping your prescription up-to-date (it can change faster than you know) are all obvious but easy-to-overlook steps toward proper contact lens maintenance.

A Good Doctor Does Wonders

If you’re having eye issues, it might not be enough just to see your optometrist. Though the ladies and gents who fit you a perfect pair of trendy glasses are wonderful, seeing an opthalmalogist as well can be crucial. Opthamalogists can run special tests and bring in specialists for anything that might be harder to detect and diagnose.

Eye care does get expensive, but there is help for the uninsured. Ultimately, our vision is what allows us to experience the world—and contact lenses can get us through dance or gym classes without pushing our glasses up our noses. Isn’t that worth the time we spend with our doctors?

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