01 August 2013

August Calendar of Monthly Events – Part 1

Part 1 of 2 parts

August has two events for our eyes. The first is Children's Eye Health and Safety Month and the second is Cataract Awareness Month. I will start with children as they need out attention. While most children most often have healthy eyes, there are some things that you as a parent should be on the watch for. This is particularly true if you have had some of the problems as a child.

It is important to set up regular pediatric appointments and vision testing should start no later than by age three. Parents should be aware of signs of vision problems about this time also. First, here are some easy things to watch for and should have the pediatrician check for if you have noticed any of the following:

#1. Amblyopia (lazy eye)
#2. Strabismus (crossed eyes)
#3. Ptosis (drooping of the eyelid)
#4. Color deficiency (color blindness)
#5. Refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism)

The parents can discover some of the above by watching for them. If you have a family history, be on the watch for these, as you will know them. Also be on the watch for disinterest in reading or viewing distant objects (near or farsightedness). If you child is squinting or turning their head in an unusual manner while watching television and especially if there in a disinterest is watching television or a movie with the family.

Use this month to discuss the importance of eye safety with your children. More than 12 million children suffer from vision impairment, and eye injuries are one of the leading causes of vision loss in children. There are an estimated 42,000 sports-related eye injuries each year and the majority of them happen to children.

Children should:
  • Wear protective eyewear while participating in sports or recreational activities.
  • Play with are age-appropriate toys. Avoid toys with sharp or protruding parts.
One of the best ways to ensure your child keeps his/her good vision throughout life is to set a good health example. Come on parents, you can do this.

Cataract Awareness Month is a good time to check with your eye doctor and have yourself checked out if you are over the age of 40. Some say this is fifty, but as important as eye health is, the sooner, the better for your vision. Even though much of the literature is trying to change this from August to June per the Prevent Blindness America organization, the calendars still list August as the month.

Having a cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens which blocks or changes the passage of light into the eye. But unlike many eye diseases vision loss due to cataracts can be restored. Cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed procedures in the United States and has a 95 percent success rate. A study has found that cataract surgery patients had a significantly reduced rate of hip fractures from falls.

Having a cataract in one or both eyes generally does not cause pain, redness, or tears. These changes in your vision may be signs of cataract, and I urge you to be check out if you have blurred vision, double vision, ghost images, the sense of a "film" over the eyes. If lights seem too dim for reading or close-up work, or you are "dazzled" by strong light. If you are changing eyeglass prescriptions often, I would wonder if your doctor is failing you by not checking for cataracts, because you may notice that the change is not helping your vision. Lastly, you may notice a cataract as it may appear as a milky or yellowish spot in the pupil instead of the normal black.

Do not be afraid to ask that the eye doctor check you for cataracts, as most eye doctors do check and can tell you if there is any concern. Both my ophthalmologist and optometrist have warned me to have this checked at every visit as they could see an indication, but that it was too early to do anything yet.

National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) is important. I have had several immunizations in the last year and will have at least one more in the coming year. My veteran's administration doctors stay on top of this and keep a calendar for me, thank goodness. And in 2004, when I was doing a fair amount of overseas travel, I needed to have a lot of catch up immunizations.

During the month of August, state and local public health departments across the country will be promoting back-to-school immunizations, encouraging college students to catch up on immunizations before they move into dormitories, and reminding everyone that immunizations are needed through adulthood.

NIAM activities are coordinated by the National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC) with assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. They are preparing a toolkit on immunizations. “The toolkit is structured to help you communicate about immunizations for a different population each week of the month:
  • Week 1: Back to school (children)
  • Week 2: Off to college (young adults)
  • Week 3: Not just for kids (adults)
  • Week 4: A healthy start (babies & pregnant women)
The toolkit contains a number of resources for each week:
  • Key messages (including social media messages)
  • Sample news releases and articles
  • Suggested events and strategies”

Please be sure to review your immunization schedule and bring your immunizations up to date and stay healthy.

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