I’ve always had excellent vision. I used to brag that Superman called me when his super-vision wasn’t strong enough. I enjoyed perfect eyesight well into my early thirties, but things changed when I reached 35.
I started to notice that reading signs more than 20 feet away were blurry. I ignored it for several weeks because I thought it was a temporary condition. I realized that the problem was more serious when I started to have frequent headaches and double vision. I was concerned about my vision and I immediately scheduled an appointment with an optometrist.
He diagnosed my near-sightedness and prescribed some glasses. Although I liked how my glasses looked, I spent the first few weeks resenting them. I rarely wore them because I didn’t want to feel “old.” I actually lost several pairs because I could function relatively well without them.
I finally had to accept that my vision wasn’t as good as it used to be when the DMV placed a restriction on my driver’s license – I can only operate motor vehicles while wearing prescription lenses.
Now I wear my glasses daily and I can function much better. I’m also setting a better example for by children by being more diligent about my eye health.
If you’re like me, you also spent many years ignoring signs of deteriorating eyesight. I spoke with VSP optometrists (disclosure: I’m a paid VSP ambassador), Dr. Art Kobayashi and Dr. Eric White about the importance of dads’ taking care of our eyes.
Mocha Dad: Why is it so important for dads to get their eyes examined every year?
Dr. White: Simply being able to see is only a small part of the visual system. Having your eyes checked annually allows us to examine the entire visual system for health and comfortable vision. The health of the inside of the eye is like a picture of the whole body. Many times we can see things—like diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure—before they become a problem and get the correct treatment to ensure a healthy life. As we get older, it becomes more important to eat healthy, and plenty of foods offer vitamins to help your vision, such as Vitamin A, lutein and zinc. Not only should we eat healthy foods, but we should also exercise regularly to make sure that our body, and in turn our whole visual system, is healthy.
Mocha Dad: At what age do men generally start noticing a decline in their vision?
Dr. Kobayshi: Assuming that a man has terrific vision in his younger years, a decline in near vision will be noticeable sometime after age 35. A human’s focusing system begins to become compromised, and it’s no longer possible to read for hours on end or to easily read fine print.
Mocha Dad: Are men more prone to experience eye-related ailments?
Dr. Kobayshi: Men are no more prone to common eye ailments than women. Problems like cataracts, glaucoma and diabetes-related changes occur equally in both sexes. However, many men will ignore early symptoms of these problems, which results in worse effects than if the problems were addressed earlier. Men generally participate in more sports and home-repair activities that result in a higher incidence of eye injuries. It’s common, in my practice, to have injury visits by men on Monday mornings from accidents caused by mowing the lawn, trimming the bushes, putting up a wall and other similar activities.
Mocha Dad: Are there any hereditary eye diseases that dads should be aware of?
Dr. Kobayshi: There are some serious hereditary diseases like retinitis pigmentosa that may be passed on from parent to child. Normally this would be a known situation, and the next generation is aware of it. Glaucoma, which causes blindness from nerve damage, is one that may be hereditary and silent in nature. Any complete eye exam will usually include tests for this disease. Retinal problems from diabetes complications are not necessarily hereditary, but the diabetes itself is. Taking care of the diabetes will aid greatly in controlling the retinal complications. Interestingly, cataracts—something that everyone worries about—is a human condition that can affect everyone after age 60. So if one has survived to that age, he or she probably has at least the beginning of a cataract. We tell our patients that having a cataract is really not a big deal until 10 or 15 years later when the vision is so blurry that surgery is needed.
Mocha Dad: How can dads protect their eyes against Computer Vision Syndrome?
Dr. White: Computer Vision Syndrome is a serious issue. We are on computers all day, and when we take breaks, we get on our smartphones and tablets. Always pay attention to how your eyes are feeling. Take breaks and focus on something far away for a few minutes. We call this the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, spend 20 seconds looking at something at least 20 feet away. Also consider wearing computer glasses to keep your eyes relaxed and as healthy as possible.
Mocha Dad: Many men are hesitant to visit any doctor. How can we convince them to schedule appointments more regularly?
Dr. Kobayashi: Men are generally known to avoid routine health visits and rationalize that if they don’t know there is a problem, there is no problem. Unfortunately, eye problems are not always noticeable, and early detection and treatment may be compromised if no one is paying attention to the problems. It’s helpful if a man’s family encourages him to visit the doctor. A terrific way to get men to schedule an appointment is to point out that if they have insurance coverage for eye exams, they might as well use the benefit since they’re already paying for it.
Mocha Dad: What are the eye-treatment options for men who don’t have any health insurance?
Dr. Kobayashi: You can visit most eye doctors even if you don’t have insurance – it just means higher out-of-pocket costs. Vision care is an affordable benefit, and you can purchase individual or family vision plans directly from an insurer.
Question: What do you do to take care of your vision?