Proper vision: Protecting your eyes on the road

Published August, 07 2001

Although our eyes are involved in almost everything we do, they often are overlooked except when there’s a problem. For truckers especially, preventative eye care is crucial. Loss of vision can result in the loss of the ability to drive, and subsequently, your income.

Common eye conditions
Most eye conditions are treatable if detected early enough. Here are a few common eye problems:

· Nearsightedness, or myopia, is a visual condition in which a person can’t see objects far away. This condition often is inherited and cannot be prevented. If you have difficulty seeing distant objects and squint often, you should visit an ophthalmologist. Treatment usually involves a prescription for glasses or contacts, but there are laser surgeries available that can correct vision.
· Farsightedness, also called hyperopia, is a condition that impairs an individual’s ability to see objects that are near. Usually this condition worsens with age. Treatment includes reading glasses or bifocals, which can be prescribed by a doctor following an evaluation.
· Cataracts are cloudy areas on the lens of the eye that cause symptoms such as blurred vision, glare, increased sensitivity to light, rainbows, a halo-like effect around lights or the feeling of looking through a waterfall. Most cataracts form when a person is in his 40s or 50s, but they don’t impair vision until after the age of 60. Cataracts are not preventable but are treatable with surgery. Typically, cataract surgery involves removing the lens and replacing it with an intraocular lens. If left untreated, cataracts can cause blindness. The World Health Organization estimates that 17 million people have blindness caused by cataracts.
· Glaucoma in all of its forms is a condition in which there is high pressure inside the eye, causing loss of vision and even blindness. The onset of glaucoma is gradual; therefore, it is often undetected until too late. If treated, glaucoma can be controlled. Usually prescription eye drops, oral medication or laser surgery are used to halt glaucoma. Those who are at high risk for glaucoma are blacks over the age of 40, anyone over the age of 60 or individuals with a family history of glaucoma. If you fall into any of these categories, you should have a glaucoma test and eye exam at least every two years.
· Macular degeneration is a condition that causes a loss of central vision and commonly affects people over the age of 60. Symptoms include blurred or distorted vision. Some cases can be treated with laser surgery. If not, vision is usually only affected in one eye. Individuals still can see out of the other eye.

If you experience any of the symptoms associated with these conditions, consult a doctor.

Eye emergencies
Eye injuries are frequent occurrences in any line of work, from scratches to more serious, vision-threatening accidents. If you experience an eye injury, it is imperative to seek immediate medical attention. Many problems, when treated improperly, can cause serious damage. If you are in an unfamiliar city and can’t find an eye doctor, go to a hospital.

If you get a foreign object in your eye, do not rub it. Try to look in your eye to see if there is anything in it. Many times microscopic particles can cause pain. If the object is embedded in your eye, do not try to remove it. Visit a doctor promptly; he can remove the object under a microscope and provide antibiotic drops if necessary.

If chemicals are splashed in your eyes, immediately flush them with cool water for 15 minutes and seek immediate medical attention. Chemicals can cause permanent damage if not flushed immediately.

Cuts, lacerations or penetrating eye injuries should be covered with bandages and medical help should be sought.

Tips for healthy eyes
· Visit the eye doctor every three to five years if you don’t have eye problems, but if you are at risk for eye disease or have vision problems, go at least once a year. If you ever experience any vision loss, vision abnormalities or pain, consult a doctor immediately.
· Protect your eyes when using chemicals or doing a job that stirs up debris.
· Wear sunglasses that protect against UV rays. Check labels on sunglasses to make sure that they block both UV-A and UV-B rays.
· Always wash your hands before touching your eyes to prevent bacteria and infection.
· If you wear contacts, follow all care and wear instructions. Always wash your hands before touching your contacts and store them in a clean case. Never put your contact lenses in your mouth. If you experience pain, blurred vision or discomfort, consult your doctor.
· Stop smoking. Smoking has been linked to some eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts.
· Reduce eyestrain. If you look at a computer screen all day, take breaks and frequently look away from the screen.