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woman with glassesThe eyes have it

Tips to keep your peepers in tip-top shape

by Danielle Jackson


It’s no secret that eye exams are an integral aspect of your overall eye health. But did you know that supplements often work best in the long run to relieve dry eye, or that laser surgery has been deemed just as safe as wearing contact lenses?


Read on for an eyebrow-raising look at the ways to best optimize eye health.


Treat your body well

Many types of eye diseases can go undetected for years, so it’s important to get a complete exam at least annually, or every other year for young patients in good health.


“People often believe that if they can see well they don’t need to see an eye doctor, but they might have a problem and be unaware of it until it’s too late,” says Garner-based optometrist Dr. Kimberly Bowers.


The time between visits is just as important, so area specialists recommend  two things you can do to keep eyes in optimal health: avoid smoking and eat healthy foods.


“Smoking is the No. 1 risk factor in age-related macular degeneration and can hasten the progress of cataracts,” Bowers says. “Conversely, good nutrition can optimize ocular health and is important in the prevention of these eye diseases.”


Supplements like Ocuvite and ICaps also can help keep eyes in tip-top shape.


“There’s nothing wrong with eating your vegetables, but I recommend a supplement when it comes to someone whose eye is already in distress,” says optometrist Dr. Tom Costabile of Optical Reflections in Chapel Hill.


These over-the-counter products are filled with Vitamin A and lutein, an antioxidant that has been proven to protect eye health, but Costabile cautions that they’re suitable only for those currently experiencing macular degeneration.


“They cause a thickening of the macula and actually will make vision worse if taken before showing signs of disease,” he says.


To help reduce the effects of dry eye, Costabile recommends a supplement with fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids, which he says can help patients in the long run.


Protect yourself

Perhaps the most important element to keep eyes healthy is protection from the sun. According to Bowers, several diseases, including age-related macular degeneration, can be attributed to exposure from UV rays.


“When it comes to UV light, we’re convinced now more than ever that cataracts also can escalate or fall into a more rapid progression from exposure,” Costabile says.


For those wearing glasses, he recommends getting ones with a UV filter or polarized lens.

“This can get rid of glare and reflection and can reduce UV exposure,” he notes.


Raleigh-based Lasik surgeon Dr. Lori Travers recommends wearing sunglasses to maintain proper eye health.


“It can be any old pair, as long as they have UV protection,” she says. “It’s like wearing sunblock. The more sun exposure to the eye or the surface of the eye, the worse off you’ll be.”


Look into laser

Laser surgery is an increasingly common option for people who wear glasses or contact lenses. And with recent safety studies noting that the risk of vision loss is similar to wearing contacts, now is as good a time as any to look into the procedure.


“The big thing now is using all-laser Lasik, which makes a thinner, more pristine flap and is more accurate,” says Travers, who has performed 22,000 procedures in the Triangle over the past decade.


“It’s no riskier than using soft contact lenses,” she adds. “Some say it’s even safer than overnight-wear lenses.”


The biggest thing that Travers says keeps people away from Lasik is fear.


“Most people are scared because it sounds like surgery, but if they were given a consent form for wearing contacts it would be just as scary,” she says.


Recent advancements also have allowed for more people to have the procedure done, particularly those with astigmatism.


“Studies show that these people often have a difficult time wearing contact lenses,” Travers notes. “With Lasik, we’re actually correcting the astigmatism directly on the eye.”


For those glued to their contacts, Travers recommends taking good care of them for optimum eye health.


“Don’t abuse contacts,” she says. “Take them in and out daily. Even if they’re made for you to wear to bed, I don’t recommend it.” 


Danielle Jackson is editor of Fifteen501, Wake Living and Triad Living magazines

Frame your face

Just like fashion, the optical world is loaded with trendy frames for every taste. But how do you choose which fits your face best?


“The general rule is that opposites attract. If you have a round face, then more angular shapes tend to work better and vice versa,” says Fred Conner, an optician and owner of Optical Reflections in Chapel Hill.


The shop carries a variety of brands, from Adidas and Maui Jim to Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. According to Conner, plastic frames are popular right now for women, while semi-rimless and metal frames remain at the top for men.


When it comes to cleaning glasses, Conner recommends first rinsing them under water, then wiping them dry with a good-quality paper towel.


“Microfiber cloths are fine, but make sure there’s no grit on the surface before using them,” he cautions.