Ask a Health Care Professional: Eye Health

More than 41 million people in the United States are affected by eye conditions. Good vision and eye health is important for everyone. Dr. Eugene Sun, vice president and chief medical officer for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico, discusses common eye conditions and how you can help protect your vision.

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EUGENE SUN: Did you know that 41 million Americans are affected by eye conditions such as cataracts, age related macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, dry eye, and others? Hi, I’m Dr. Eugene Sun, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico. Eye conditions are very common and in this video we will review a few of the more common ones and what you need to know to take care of your eyes.


As people age, a common condition that occurs is presbyopia, which makes it harder to see objects at close range. This is caused by the lenses in the eye losing flexibility. Symptoms include blurred vision, the need to hold reading material at arm's length, eye strain, and headaches.  Glasses or contact lenses can help with this condition.


While not a “normal” age related change, cataracts are very common among older adults.  Cataracts are cloudy areas in the lens of the eye that cause blurred vision as well as sensitivity to glare. Cataracts can be removed with surgery. Ultraviolet (UV) light is a risk factor for cataracts so it is important to protect your eyes with glasses or sunglasses that provide UV protection.


Other, more serious conditions can affect your eyes and potentially cause loss of vision or blindness.  Glaucoma is a condition in which the pressure within the eye becomes too high. Left untreated that can cause blindness. Eye pressures can be measured as part of routine medical eye exams.


Macular degeneration is caused by deterioration of the retina, which lines the back of the eye, and can also lead to vision loss and blindness. There are effective treatments for both glaucoma and macular degeneration.


Retinal detachment is a condition when the light and image capturing lining of the eye, the retina, separates from the inside of the eye. If not treated promptly, retinal detachment can cause permanent loss of vision. Sudden or gradual increases in the number of floaters, which are little specks in your vision, or light flashes, are symptoms of a retinal detachment. The sensation of a curtain over your field of vision is another. People with extreme near sightedness are at greater risk for retinal detachment. If you develop any of these symptoms you should see an eye doctor immediately as a retinal detachment is a true medical emergency.


Maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle with regular exercise can help your overall health as well as eye health. Smoking, being overweight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol are all risk factors for macular degeneration so it is important to control those conditions if you have them.


Even if your vision is normal or has not changed, it is important to have your eyes checked by an eye health professional at least every other year.  If you have conditions such as diabetes, or other diseases that can affect your eyes you should be checked yearly.  If you have any changes in your vision, whether sudden, or gradual, you should get checked as soon as possible.


Good vision and eye health is important for everyone. Make sure you have your eyes checked regularly by an eye care professional.