Saturday, October 1

‘Never take our gift of sight for granted’

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People must not disregard the need to relook into and ‘train’ their eyes to enhance their stamina, stresses optometrist

As you rely on your eyes for vision, they also need to rely on you to take better care of them.

IF the past two years had taught us anything, it would definitely be the truth behind the age-old adage, ‘health is wealth’.

Amidst the challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic had brought along with it, the situation had also given us the time to truly understand what was best for us mentally, physically and emotionally.

Our overall well-being is important, but many of us take our gift of sight for granted, thinking that having one’s eyes checked on a regular basis or getting new prescription eyewear could solve any problem.

It is found that over 22 per cent of Malaysians visit their ophthalmologists at least once a year for eye health checks.

However, some may be surprised to discover that many eyecare practitioners do more than checks – they provide children’s myopia control management, prescribe spot-on treatments and solutions like progressive additional lenses and specialty contact lenses to clients with specific needs, and a host of other visual requirements.

These services can accommodate bespectacled individuals and also those who have never conducted any eye examination.

According to Suyidatina Sulaiman, the key optometrist of optical retailer MOG Eyewear, being aware of one’s visual needs is a fundamental element in eye health.

“As our day-to-day activities are becoming more visually demanding, like spending long hours on digital devices, having to switch our vision in between different activities, adapting our sight to the differing external environment, and our lifestyle habits, it is imperative that we do not disregard the need to relook into and ‘train’ our eyes to enhance their stamina.

“Our eyes are as equally important as other parts of our body, and they require continuous attention to ensure that they continue to function optimally.

“In this regard, it is highly advisable to visit your optometrist at least once every year – at least for the eye health assessment.

“The technology has advanced beyond the traditional eyecare, and also our optometry practices,” she said.

Our eyes are as equally important as other parts of our body, and they require continuous attention to ensure that they continue to function optimally, says Suyidatina.

By taking these measures, one could reduce the likelihood of developing eye-related disorders such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and cataracts.

Different conditions, different attention

Refractive error can be divided into myopia (near-sightedness), hyperopia (far-sightedness), presbyopia (a condition where one sees blurred when looking at close objects even with glasses on), and astigmatism (imperfection in the curvature of the eye that causes blurred distance and near vision).

Through a study done by the National Eye Survey, a joint effort between the departments of ophthalmology from top medical universities in Malaysia, it is found that refractive error has become a key health issue, making it the most commonly reported vision problem among Malaysian children.

In the long run, this could lead to far more serious complications.

Another matter that is worthy of discussion is that many people are still unaware of contact lenses being a type of medical device that must be prescribed by an eyecare specialist.

While contact lenses are among the most reliable, effective and convenient options for corrective eyewear that are now available in the market, the chances of getting an eye infection are increased significantly if the users failed to handle and care for their contact lenses properly. In this respect, getting contact lenses from uncertified sources can be risky.

As an alternative to conventional glasses, contact lenses may also ease the effect of presbyopia.

On the other hand, individuals suffering from astigmatism should consult their optometrists with regard to using toric soft contact lenses, which are specially-designed s to create different refractive or focusing power that can help correct either corneal or lenticular astigmatism. These contact lenses are generally available in daily or monthly-disposable options to fit one’s budget and lifestyle needs.

In addition to this, the advancement of technologies behind soft contact lenses may also lessen the likelihood of experiencing dry-eye symptoms with the introduction of materials like silicone hydrogel, and the rise of ‘water lenses’ – among other options.

There are a number of eye conditions that can be treated with the use of contact lenses including the more advanced orthokeratology treatment.

Corneal assessment being undertaken to identify the ideal contact lens fitting.

However, one must always refer to a professional eyecare provider for professional contact lens fitting to find the best fit based on the corneal curvature, eye surface condition and lifestyle habits.

Furthermore, expert advice is necessary even when selecting the optimum solution for one’s reusable contact lenses to maintain optimum comfort and safety during wear.

Myopia in children

Children’s vision problems are frequently overlooked because they are either too young to complain or comprehend the true nature of having clear or blurry vision. Even when they do, some parents do not take these complaints seriously and as a result, the problem gets progressively worse as the child grows older.

Children, like adults, are prone to the risks of eye diseases like retinal detachment, maculopathy (degeneration of macula – the small but important area in the centre of the retina), and binocular vision disorder such as strabismus (misalignment of eyes) and amblyopia (lazy eyes).

A series of binocular vision tests being conducted to facilitate children’s visual assessment.

While it is possible that the greatest answer for them would be to get glasses to ‘correct’ their vision, children may not feel the same way at times.

Myopia, if left untreated, can greatly impact the child’s golden years of development.

This is especially evident in terms of their movement coordination, learning abilities as well as emotional attachment during their growing years.

Therefore, parents play an important role in ensuring that their children receive the ideal support from a trusted eyecare provider to complete their visual demands.

The child’s optometrist may recommend certain types of specialty optical lenses or contact lenses, as part of a programme called the ‘Children Myopia Control’, which involves professional consultation and tailored prescription monitored for up to a year at minimum.

This programme aims to slow down the progression of myopia and prevent children from becoming myopic at an early age.

Such a programme would be advised after a detailed examination of the children’s eye development.

Enhancing clarity of vision

The natural process of ageing can result in a gradual decline in both the capacity to see things up close and further out. Progressive additional lenses (PALs) stand as a vital technological advancement that makes it possible to merge several visual needs into a single lens to enhance clarity of vision at all distances.

The strength of the lenses ‘progressively’ varies from distant to intermediate to your near vision needs, so you can switch between demands effortlessly and comfortably – allowing you to read at close range, work at a medium distance, or observe things from afar with just one pair of glasses.

Digitalised eyewear fitting serves to retrieve the most precise fit and measurements for one’s new glasses.

In short, progressive lenses accommodate a variety of visual needs in a single lens, while eliminating the need to frequently switch between many pairs of eyewear.

However, it would require some time for a person under review to be accustomed to PALs.

Although some people take longer time to adapt, a vast majority are still able to learn it seamlessly. It has also come to attention that faster adaptation is possible under the guidance of professional eyecare practitioners, where one is able to try it on physically during the assessment stage in-store and get a feel of it before actually tailoring a pair to suit one’s own needs.

Underlying signs of wearing the wrong eyewear

Eye strain is extremely common, usually occurring when one’s eyes become tired from intense use. The person may also feel some discomfort in the form of dry eyes or intermittent blurring of vision.

These same activities often promote poor posture in one’s neck and back which, in turn, can cause muscle tension and pain in these areas. If left untreated, the demand for focused visual concentration would lead to bad posture because of the need or desire for closer proximity, especially when eye strain is disrupting one’s sight.

However, a study done by researchers at the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine of Universiti Malaya, and Novartis Corporation, has found that an estimated 3.6 million people in Malaysia are suffering from migraine. Even though some might be caused by stress from work or irregular sleeping schedule, recurring and frequent headaches every few days with no sign of recovery may be a sign that it is the result of incorrect eyewear or lens prescription.

While the majority of us tend to assume that these symptoms are caused by the lifestyles and the migraine sufferers tend to use paracetamol as the common cure, little do we know that wearing the wrong eyewear may be the actual reason behind it.

Your eyes play an important role in many aspects of your daily routine to create a meaningful and beautiful life. As such, while you rely on your eyes for vision, they also need to rely on you to take better care of them.

There are now more options to be considered for the future of one’s sight as eyecare providers are able to offer a wide range of treatments to accommodate increasing visual demands.

Through methodical assessment and evaluation of the eye conditions, one can find viable match of treatment such as the ‘Children Myopia Control’ programme, PALs, or even finding the correct contact lenses.

With proper consultation from a professional eyecare provider, you should be able to enjoy optimum vision through every stage of life.