MERIDEN — Though July was healthy vision month, area eye doctors say keeping healthy vision is a year-round responsibility.
Dr. Farid Shafik, an ophthalmologist and cornea specialist at The Hospital of Central Connecticut in Southington, said 90% of eye diseases are silent, which is why people of all ages, regardless of having any issues with vision, should see an eye doctor once a year or once every two years. More visits may be required depending on each person’s condition.
Maintaining a healthy body helps the eyes as they are connected to the rest of the body. His job includes treating diseases of the eye and performing eye surgery.
“We look at the eye as being part of the rest of the body,” Shafik said. “And whatever happens in your heart is happening to your eye, whatever is happening to your gut is happening to your eye.”
Common mistakes people make end up affecting eye health including not controlling diabetes properly, not taking contact lenses out every night, not blinking enough and not taking enough breaks from computers, he said.
A tip he gives to people who work in front of a computer is to break concentration from the computer every 20 minutes by looking at something that’s 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
“What that does is it gives you a chance to blink so that helps you get moisture back on the eyes,” he said.
Shafik has posters in commemoration of healthy vision month, but he tries to create awareness on the topic on a daily basis, not just during July.
To create awareness, he likes to spend a lot of time with patients and explain things in ways they can understand. He also spends time counseling patients, encourages them to bring questions to their appointments and makes sure they know he’s available.
Luis Diaz, 29, an optical technician at Professional Vision Center in Meriden, was always aware of his need for glasses to be able to see, but when he started working in the field, he learned about the importance of having healthy vision.
He said there are a lot of things people take for granted regarding eye health and that includes the need to wear glasses.
He also stressed the importance of getting periodical eye exams because seeing well doesn’t necessarily mean having healthy eyes.
He explained people with diabetes in particular need to see an eye doctor every six months.
In addition, Diaz spoke about misconceptions regarding eye care. Growing up, he heard family members say glasses make vision worse.
“If you need glasses, you should wear them,” Diaz said. “What makes your vision worse is straining your eyes trying to see things. You are forcing muscles to work that really need to be relaxed and the way to do that is with glasses and/or contacts.”
Diaz started his career in vision health through a job at LensCrafters.
When he started working in the field he realized a lot of work goes into a pair of glasses and eye exams.
“That really caught my interest, how glasses were made, the process and everything,” he said.
After two years at LensCrafters, he started work at Professional Vision Center.
He hopes to go to school to become a licensed optician.
His favorite part of the job is to help people find a pair of glasses, “something that looks good on them and that they are happy with,” he said.
Diaz gets to work with a lot of Latino clients, about 80%, he said.
“I never spoke more Spanish in my life than when I started working here,” he added.
Jasmine Europa Garcia, 23, a technician at Wallingford Eye Care Center, has also always worn glasses and the screenings and technology behind it made her curious about learning about eyes.
She loves vision health and is looking forward to going to school to become an optometrist.
The clinic doesn’t celebrate healthy vision month per se, but looks to create awareness all year, particularly among new patients.
Garcia works a lot with Spanish-speaking clients as she is the only one that speaks the language in her office.
She makes sure to tell clients that there’s more to eye care than just vision and encourages people to get general check-ups even if they feel there’s nothing wrong with their eyes.
This story was produced in conjunction with the Record-Journal’s Latino Communities Reporting Lab.