Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital (RPMH) focused on eye health and wellness as the topic of this month’s Lunch and Learn Seminar, held on Wednesday.
Cody Wilkinson, doctor of optometry and optometric glaucoma specialist, led the seminar, covering the basics of eye health and how prominent diseases and health conditions can reduce or eliminate a person’s sight.
“Growing up, we learn so much about how to protect our eyes whether it be to wash our hands before touching them or wearing sunglasses to protect them from harmful UV rays,” Wilkinson said. “As we get older, there are many health conditions and diseases that we must also become aware of as they could affect your vision.”
Going over some of the statistics, Wilkinson explained that 1.5 million people are legally blind in America. He also mentioned one of the biggest fears for diabetics and the elderly is going blind. "Without vision, our mobility and self reliance is extremely limited," Wilkinson said.
Diseases such as diabetes, if unmanaged, can lead to permanent blindness. Cataracts and age related macular degeneration were also discussed, and he stressed the importance of monitoring those conditions closely.
Cataracts are the most common cause of reversible blindness worldwide. They are typically age-related, with an average on set age between 65-75 years old. Children are not exempt from cataracts, though. "The youngest person I've seen was about a year and a half old," said Wilkinson. "Early diagnosis is important for proper ocular development."
The procedure to correct cataracts generally takes about 15 minutes and is an out-patient procedure with a low risk of complications. There are also few after-surgery restrictions and many people generally only need reading specs afterwards.
Diabetic eye disease was also discussed. Uncontrolled diabetes can cause two ocular effects — a temporary fluctuation in vision (high/low blood glucose leads to more/less nearsightedness; once under control, vision reverts to normal) and diabetic retinopathy (permanent damage to the retina that can lead to irreversible blindness).
The last topic of the seminar, age related macular degeneration (ARMD), affects 1.75 million Americans age 50 and older and is the number one cause of new blindness in people over 60. Risk factors for ARMD are age, family history, overall health, eye color (light eyes, supposedly, are more susceptible to ARMD), and smoking. There are two forms of ARMD — the dry form (90% of all cases), and the wet form (90% of all severe vision loss). Wilkinson stressed the importance of maintaining one's overall health and not smoking to help reduce the chances of ARMD in later years.
Wilkinson also presented some information from an ARED study. It is a multi-center study that has been going on for the past 15 years dealing with nutrition and the eye. It was discovered that people with ARMD taking certain vitamins, in certain concentrations, decrease their risk of developing ARMD by 25%.
Appropriately related, RPMH is working in conjunction with the Lions Club on a drive for used eye glasses. Citizens are encouraged to bring their old glasses they no longer use for donation to needy individuals. There is a donation box located in the hospital lobby.
Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital provides healthcare for those in the communities they serve. Founded in 1976, Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital offers a wealth of medical services including: 24 hour emergency care, advanced radiology services including CT scanning and MRIs, outpatient lab, physical therapy, surgical services, swing bed services, patient education, home health and assistive services, and more. For additional information, please visit www.rpmh.net .