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Doctors weigh in: How healthy are your eyes?

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HOLLAND, Mich. -- We often talk about healthy living but seldom talk about the health of our eyes. May is National Eye Health Month, and doctors say it's important to protect your eyesight.

Whether you wear glasses, contacts, or have perfect 20-20 vision, says physician ophthalmologist Dr. Eric Snyder at Holland Eye warns of the many ways you can hurt your eyes.

He suggests kids under 10 should start off wearing glasses for vision correction as opposed to contacts. He says they are safer.

"The pros of glasses are they protect your eyes. There's some safety there and it’s very good for treating astigmatism, nearsightedness, farsightedness, and you can add a bifocals for older people," Snyder said. "Under the age of 10, I’m cautious about contact lenses unless it’s going to give them better quality vision."

Although contacts can help your vision, they're not always the best choice. Snyder says contact lenses can cause corneal ulcers if they're not cleaned properly or if they are left in too long and cause corneal ulcers, which can scar the eye.

"The way to prevent those infections are disinfecting the contact lenses," said Snyder. "A lot of people like to sleep in their contact lenses. In fact there rare contact lenses that are approved for extended wear, up with 2 weeks at a time," he said, adding that you have ten times higher risk of getting an infection if you sleep in your contacts.

"It can be totally preventable if you just disinfect your contact lenses."

He suggests taking your contacts out right away if your eyes become red or irritated at any time.

Snyder also recommends wearing eye protection when doing certain outdoor chores, such as mowing the lawn. He said tiny rocks or objects could easily hit your eye at a faster rate than you can blink.

Snyder is also seeking awareness of the danger of air soft guns. In the last couple years Dr. Snyder has seen an increase in air soft gun injuries. According to an article in the New York Times, rates for eye injuries from non-powder guns increased by more than 500 percent between 2010 and 2012.

Snyder says that without eye protection, air soft BBs can significantly damage the eye. "It can cause significant trauma in kind of a shock wave that hits the eye that causes damage to the iris, to the lens, to the retina, where you can end up with long-term glaucoma, cataracts, retinal detachment."

That's why Snyder says wearing protective eyewear that wraps completely around your peripheral vision is key.

As for everyday eye concerns, Snyder covered those as well, first starting with laser corrective surgery. He says you have to be older than 18 to have laser corrective surgery and that your prescription must be stable.

"There are some rare medical things where some doctors are doing [laser surgery] to treat a lazy eye, when the eyes are different sizes, but other than that we wait until age 18," he said.

Dr. Snyder also adds that there is vision screening for children to see if they need to see an eye doctor. And for those over the age of 40, he suggests getting a medical eye exam to check for eye disease, even if you have healthy eyes.

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