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Archive for March, 2013

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March is National Save Your Vision month — a good time to consider some of the more common eye diseases that could affect one’s vision.

It is said that by age 75, a majority of us will develop problems with our eyes that could lead to serious vision loss. At that age, more than one half of people will have cataracts, and around 20 percent will have either macular degeneration or glaucoma.

These diseases are all related to the aging process, which of course we cannot change. But there are some things we can do to reduce the risk.

Cataracts

Cataracts are a condition caused by the clouding of the normally crystal-clear lens of the eye. This results in hazy vision, increased visual glare, seeing halos around lights, and poor night vision.

A cataract can develop in one or both eyes.

Some risk factors are increasing age, excessive exposure to sunlight, diabetes, excessive alcohol consumption and smoking.

As cataracts worsen, surgery often becomes necessary. This involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with a plastic lens implant. This is routine surgery with minimal risk and great benefit.

Macular degeneration

Macular degeneration occurs with failure of the macula, the center of our retina that is responsible for clear vision.

There are two types of degeneration. Dry macular degeneration is the most common and is caused by a thinning and breakdown of the macular tissue. Wet macular degeneration can progress from the

dry variety and is due to leaky blood vessels around the macula and is often more serious. Both types can cause serious central blurring and even a central blind spot.

Treatment for dry macular degeneration involves taking antioxidant vitamins, and for the wet variety there are new drugs that prevent leaky blood vessels.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is caused by increased pressure that builds up inside the eyeball. It results in damage to the optic nerve, which interferes with the transmission of images to the brain, resulting in severe loss of vision.

Treatment begins with eye drops, which usually need to be used or the rest of one’s life.

Several different surgical procedures are also available for some types of glaucoma.

Possible prevention

There are things you can do to help save your vision, including:

– Wear sunglasses when outdoors during daylight

– Quit smoking

– Moderate alcohol consumption

– Control chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension

– Exercise regularly and eat a diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables

See your doctor immediately if you have any obvious visual change.

People between the ages of 18 and 50 should have routine eye exams every two years, and every year after the age of 50.

Children need routine eye exams as well. Ask your child’s doctor about the frequency.

 

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Hair Loss

Hair Loss, Men and Women

 

Hair loss is a normal part of aging for men and even for some women. It is estimated that two thirds of men will begin to become bald by the age of 60.

The most common form of baldness, called male or female pattern balding, is often controlled by genetics.

It has been commonly believed that baldness is passed down through the mother’s genes, but it is now recognized that the father’s genes play a role, too.

Women’s hair-loss pattern is different from that of men, in that women tend to have generalized thinning of the hair rather than distinct balding patterns. Hair loss increases with women’s age, as it does with men, but about 10 percent of premenopausal women will start to lose hair.

There are many other less-common causes of balding, including some cancer treatments, severe emotional stress, hormonal changes during pregnancy, severe infections, strict dieting, thyroid disease, certain medications and some vitamin and nutritional deficiencies.

There is as yet no cure for baldness, but there is an abundance of treatments touted as curing baldness or at least lessening further hair loss. In fact, American males collectively spend around $ billion a year on these products. Most nonprescription treatments, especially those that are not FDA approved, are worthless in spite of the claims and testimonies.

There are now two approved medicines for treating baldness.

Rogaine (Minoxidil and generics) is an over-the-counter topical solution. It has been shown to be somewhat helpful in halting further hair loss and possibly encouraging new hair growth. It is also the only medication approved to treat female pattern baldness. Both sexes must continue to use this medicine indefinitely. Hair loss starts again when it stops being used.

The other drug, Propecia (Finasteride), is a prescription medication, approved only for men and taken as a pill by mouth. It also has been shown to slow or prevent further hair loss.

Both Rogaine and Propecia have potential side effects that make it advisable to speak with a doctor before using either drug.

There are many untrue myths about causes of baldness, including:

– Excessive wearing of a hat.

– Frequent exposure to sun.

– Daily shampooing.

– Use of hairspray and gel.

Losing 50 to 100 hairs a day is considered normal.

The bottom line is that if you are experiencing what you consider to be hair loss that bothers you, you should talk to your doctor or a dermatologist. Do this before spending a lot of hard-earned money on worthless treatments.

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