Whether you take pride in sharing dimples identical to your father's, or feel embarrassed by that familiar, oddly shaped mole; genetics play a definitive role in our lives.
In a doctor's office, one of the first questions asked is family medical history. Why is this important to an eye exam? Did you not just come in for a quick update of your glasses & contact lenses prescriptions? Don't rush past the most important part of your exam: a dilation.
Many eye diseases are genetically linked. Currently 520,000 African Americans have glaucoma in the United States. Glaucoma is a painless disease, that if not caught early, can be a swift thief of sight. Diabetes runs in families as well. This disease links to the body's inability to break down the hormone insulin, which causes a buildup of glucose (sugar) in the blood. This build up slows down the flow of blood (and subsequently oxygen) to bodily organs, leading to a leaking or bleeding of blood vessels. In the eyes, this is known as diabetic retinopathy. Currently 828,000 African Americans suffer from diabetic retinopathy in the United States. A comprehensive, dilated eye exam is the best way to screen for these, and many other potentially blinding eye diseases.
Another way to prevent the probability of ocular and systemic diseases is to take charge of your daily habits. Consistent exercise, a balanced diet of leafy vegetables and fish, smoking cessation, and limited alcohol consumption are key factors to defining your health and future for yourself. While genetics play an important factor in who we are, it is not the only factor that determines who we become.
The National Optometric Association seeks to "Advance the Visual Health of Minority Populations" through free eye screenings and public health education. The "Three Silent Killers" program highlights the three eye diseases plaguing African American & Latino populations: glaucoma, diabetes, & hypertension. It's time to reclaim our health and that of our loved ones. Visit: www.nationaloptometricassociation.com for more on the program.
written by Dr. Camille Cohen, O.D.