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Healthy Vision For Whole Family

May is Healthy Vision Month and the American Academy of Ophthalmology is urging Americans of all ages to take good care of their eyes.

To help, The Saturday Early Show's Dr. Mallika Marshall provided advice on protecting you and your family from eye disease.

Marshall says many people take eye health for granted, assuming that they are going to develop eye disease as they age. Age-related eye disease, however, can often be prevented. There are many conditions that begin in childhood and early adulthood that, if caught early, can be prevented or controlled. Marshall's first advice is to take good care of your eyes, starting at an early age.

Most children have healthy eyes, but there are a number of common childhood eye conditions that parents should be aware of:

  • Look for wandering or crossed eyes, redness or discharge from the eye.
  • Pay attention to whether your child squints or turns his head in an unusual way while watching television.
  • Notice if your child shows little interest in reading, is having trouble in school, or can't focus on far away objects.
  • Be aware if there's a family history of childhood vision problems.

    If a child shows signs of eye problems, a doctor should evaluate him.

    Marshall says infants and toddlers should be screened for common childhood eye conditions such as strabismus (crossed eyes) and lazy eye during their regular pediatric check-ups. Vision screening should begin around age three. For adults, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends a complete eye exam once in your 20s, twice in your 30s and every two to four years between 40 and 65. People over 65 should be examined every one to two years. People with certain underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes or a family history of eye disease, such as glaucoma, should be screened more often.

    Marshall provided some tips to protect eyes from injury and disease:

  • Wear Sunglasses and Hats
    Exposure to UV light can cause cataracts, a condition in which the lens of the eye becomes cloudy causing vision loss. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to shade your eyes from the sun and reduce your risk.
  • Use Protective Eye Gear
    Sports injuries are the leading cause of eye injuries among children and young adults. Chemicals and yard debris are other common causes of injury. So whether you're at work, at home or at play, you need to wear eye gear that will protect your eyes from injury.
  • Buy Safe Toys
    Marshall says she sees so many kids in her clinic who have been poked in the eye with a sharp object or toy. She says parents should avoid toys or games with sharp or protruding pieces, and pellet guns or other gadgets that could injure a child's eyes.
  • Maintain Contact Lenses Properly
    Some people are sloppy when it comes to caring for their contact lenses. That can be dangerous, Marshall says, because if you don't clean your contacts properly or wear them for too long, you can get eye infections or even cause physical damage to the surface of your eyes.
  • Don't Smoke
    Smoking can actually damage the delicate nerve membrane at the back of the eye called the retina, which can lead to vision loss and blindness. If you quit smoking you can actually reduce your risk.
  • Dispose of Old Eye Make-Up
    Many women throw away their mascara only when it gets too clumpy, but bacteria like to grow in old make-up tubes, and that can lead to infection. Marshall recommends that you replace your mascara and eyeliner every 3 to 6 months.
  • Eat Fruits and Vegetables
    Foods that are rich in anti-oxidants can help prevent a number of illnesses, including eye disease, such as cataracts.
  • Practice Fireworks Safety
    Some 20 percent of injuries caused by fireworks are eye injuries. You can get serious burns or even lose an eye from firework accidents. Bottle-rockets and sparklers are particularly dangerous to eyes, so use good judgment when it comes to celebrating the Fourth of July with your family and friends.
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