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General EYE ADVICE

Introduction

Part I Eye Problems, Possible Causes and Advice By AGE Grouping

Section (A) INFANTS and PRE-SCHOOLERS

Section (B) SCHOOL AGE CHILDREN and ADOLESCENTS

Section (C) YOUNGER ADULTS  (UP TO EARLY FORTIES)

Section (D) MIDDLE AGE (UP TO SIXTY YEARS)

Section (E) OLDER AGE (OVER SIXTY YEARS)

Part (II) Selected Eye problems of Importance to All Age Groups.

Section (A) ASTIGMATISM

Section (B) COMMON CHRONIC INFECTIVE CONJUNCTIVITIS

Section (C) Hints on Eye Usage with Computers

Section (D) Lifestyle and Glaucoma

CONCLUSION

Section (A)

INFANTS and PRE-SCHOOLERS

Diet and genetics appear to be the principal underlying causes for most problems presenting to the eyecare practitioner in this age group. Inadequate use of the eyes (including lack of visual experience) and other factors such as infections, can also lead to eye problems presenting to an eyecare clinic.

Diet and Normal Development

While all the components of the eye are normally present at birth, each part of the eye continues to grow and mature at a relatively rapid rate in the first 3-4 years of life. A healthy diet containing the currently recommended variety of nutrients is thus particularly important in these first few years of life for normal growth and physiological development. A nutritious diet in these years may even help to prevent the full expression of certain undesirable genes. E.g. a healthy diet and adequate visual experience may counter-act the effect of a gene that pre-disposes to moderate astigmatism.

In the last decade there has been rather strong scientific evidence for the generally superior nutritional benefits of breast-milk over formula milk. (Refer to Nutrition Science Newsfor an overview of the benefits.) Of course, the mother must also be on a well-balanced nutritious diet in order for the breast milk to be highly nutritious for the infant. Perhaps most importantly, recent studies have shown that breast milk is associated with better mental development.

Other research (e.g. at Flinders University, Adelaide) has consistently supported the finding that both pre-term and term infants who are fed breast milk show better retinal and vision development than those infants on formula milk that lacked a particular fatty acid. Specialised tests were used to determine the infants' vision i.e. an electroretinogram (ERG) and visual evoked potentials (VEP). The absence of the omega-3 fatty acid (DHA) was considered responsible for the difference in retinal development. More recent research indicates that some adverse effects on the retina may be irreversible as there is a critical time (approximately the first 6 months) in the development of the retina.

After the age of six months, foods rich in iron are essential for the developing neuro-muscular components of the visual system. A strong neuro-muscular system enables good control of focusing which is necessary for immediate clear vision, but also for 'setting' the optical structures of the eye in such a way as to create normal-sightedness. It is important to note that whilst normal (non-defective) genes give us a good start towards normal vision, we rely on our visual system's neuro-muscular components for the fine-tuning required to achieve perfect vision.

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