– Ed

Consider your world should you lose your eye sight or even have your vision compromised? Too ghastly to contemplate! Trauma can of course result in the sudden loss of vision, although it is generally not a common cause of blindness. Several of the ocular diseases that can cause vision loss can be successfully treated, provided they are diagnosed at an early stage. It is important to note that the incidence of ocular disorders increase as we get older, but also that some of the serious ones are asymptomatic – you won’t know it’s there.

The most common and notable event that happens as we march into the forties, is that our ability to focus on near objects becomes difficult. This is further accentuated these days by the fact that digital devices such as cellular phones are held much closer than the conventional near working distance of 40cms. The focussing mechanism in the young eye is a miraculous thing. When looking at a distant object further than 6 meters away, the lens in the eye is in a relaxed state and if there is no refractive error, the image is focussed exactly on the retina. As soon as focus is changed to an object closer than 6 meters, the lens changes shape, becoming more convex, to keep the image focussed on the retina. This happens in a fraction of a second. There is no noticeable blurring of the image until it finds the right spot, it just happens instantly! As we get older the crystalline lens loses its elasticity and for some reason, this manifest for most people during the fourth decade of their lives (except for short sighted people who get away without the same demand for focussing at near).

It stands to reason that it is therefore important to have routine eye examinations from the age of forty, whether you have any complaints about your eyes or not. Glaucoma, for instance, can come and steal your vision like a thief in the night! The increased pressure slowly but surely kills off nerve fibres which makes your visual field shrink slowly from the outside. By the time you notice anything, it is too late to regain any of the visual field lost. Yet, if diagnosed early, it can be treated.

The question is often posed; are over-the-counter readers bad for your eyes? Not really. There are some optical factors that your optometrist can deal with more effectively, but here is the problem. It is the loss of focussing during our forties that will persuade us to have a comprehensive eye examination. Although the main reason is to get better vision at near, there is a huge bonus to boot, because the optometrist will rule out any ocular disease. The “forty-somethings” who believe the solution lies solely in buying cheap readers over the counter, deprive themselves of the opportunity to rule out ocular pathology, because they don’t experience any other symptoms. Having a routine eye examination when you turn forty is a must.

Lastly, it is a fact cast in stone, that once you become a presbyope (lose your ability to focus at near), you will never again enjoy the freedom of unencumbered vision you did as a young person. Of course, a lot can be done with all sorts of spectacles or contact lenses, but no single pair of specs will work optimally for all the activities in your life. The glasses set up best for your computer are not going to be the best option for the golf course. To enjoy the best functional vision for a particular task, you require an optical prescription best suited for that task.

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