Many of us are very proactive when it comes to our medical needs. We get yearly physicals, go to the dentist twice a year, and some of us even make sure to get our monthly massage. One thing, however, for which many people wait until a problem arises to see a professional, is the eyes. I can say this because as an eye doctor, it is a daily occurrence for me to see patients who haven't had their eyes checked in five or more years. The eyes are one of the sensors Allah has given us to experience His wonders and by which to also gain humility by lowering our gaze. They should be taken care of and treasured just like any important organ of our bodies.
As mentioned before, a lot of us are very proactive with our health nowadays. The medical world is starting to realize that prevention is better than treatment, so preventative exams are highly recommended. Yet this is generally not the practice in regards to eye care. In a survey by the American Optometric Association, 35 percent of Americans have never been to an eye doctor in over five years. That is a staggering number considering that in the same survey, close to 60 percent of people said that vision is the sense they would least like to lose. Whether this is because of a misinformed public, a poor job of education by practitioners, or a lack of insurance coverage, the fact remains that people are not getting their eyes examined as often as they should. A New York Times survey even found that a whopping 86% of people with diagnosed eye disease do not get yearly exams. If public health is such a big concern to this country, the eyes seem like a good place to start focusing on.
Another problem lies in the public perception about eye health. Many people feel they do not need to go to the eye doctor if they can see fine. This is a dangerous notion because there are many conditions – such as glaucoma, diabetes, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors and macular degeneration, just to name a few – which can be detected by an eye doctor at an early stage and possibly even be prevented. When symptoms occur, such as blurry or dark vision, this can represent the end stage of the condition in which it becomes very difficult to treat. And this does not just apply for older people. Many eye conditions are genetic and if a family member has a condition, it would be a good idea to get yourself checked out. Finally, even if there is not any eye disease, many people who say they can see well could in reality see much better, because they never knew what clear, crisp vision was in the first place!
Nutrition and lifestyle can also play a big role in eye health. It is a commonly held belief that eating carrots is good for your vision. While it certainly doesn't cause any harm, beta carotene has not been found to have much of an effect on vision or any of the structures on the eye. It has been found that spinach is packed with antioxidants and vitamins that are very good for the eye, especially for certain eye conditions. In general, a healthy balanced diet is all the eye needs to function properly, and the lack of one can cause problems down the road. As if smoking wasn't bad enough, it was found that it can also increase the chance of glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration. It can also cause irritation and dry eyes, especially for those who wear contact lenses. So just as nutrition and lifestyle can affect our general health, they can also affect our eyes too.
A person asked Imam Ali (peace be upon him), "What is the distance between right and wrong?" Imam Ali replied, "Four fingers." He then placed his four fingers between the eye and ear and said, "That which is seen by the eye is true and that which is heard by the ear is mostly wrong or false." This is a great hadith about the dangers of Gheebat, but can only be true if we get our eyes in good shape! So my recommendation is for everyone who hasn't gotten their eyes checked in a while to go make an appointment. If you are doing it regularly, keep it up. Most people should be getting their eyes checked at least every 2 years if not sooner, depending on your doctor's recommendation. Prevention is better than cure so let's all be proactive with this most important sense of ours. If there are any questions, please leave them in the comments section, and I will answer them to the best of my knowledge insh'Allah.