Live Well Ohio: July/August 2022
Follow these guidelines for adult immunizations and learn what vision health screenings you need to protect your sight.
It’s easy to overlook, but adults need to stay up to date on these five crucial immunizations.
An important part of health maintenance that adults frequently forget is assuring that their vaccines are up to date. “After you complete your childhood immunizations, sometimes those annual well checks fall off the radar,” says Kathleen Malear, certified nurse practitioner at Mercy Health in Lorain. Here are five immunizations to discuss with your doctor.
Flu: Even if you are young and healthy, getting the flu vaccine annually protects others. “You might not think the flu will affect you, but it could seriously impact someone you love who does not have the immunity that you do,” Malear says.
Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis): A rusty nail or cut from a garden tool could expose you to tetanus, a bacterial infection that causes muscle spasms, fever and trouble swallowing. Getting a Tdap immunization every 10 years protects you from infection. Tdap also addresses diphtheria, which causes breathing difficulty and can result in heart and nerve damage. Pertussis, or whooping cough, has re-emerged in recent years, too.
COVID-19: “Anyone who is eligible should receive the vaccine,” Malear says, adding that you can still get COVID-19 if you are immunized but the vaccine minimizes severe illness, hospitalization and mortality. Follow the CDC guidelines surrounding booster shots following the primary vaccine.
Shingles: Adults ages 50 and older should get two doses of the shingles vaccine, and the same goes for adults ages 19 and older who are immunocompromised. “If you had chickenpox as a child, it’s the same virus and it lies dormant in your body and can come out in times of stress and illness,” Malear explains.
Pneumonia: Children younger than age 2 and adults 65 and older should get immunized to protect against pneumonia. “There are two different versions of the vaccine addressing the various pneumonia strains, and adults should get one dose of each,” Malear says.
Regular vision screenings and deeper testing give doctors a clearer picture of your eye health.
Eyes are a looking glass into your health. A dilated pupil can show a doctor whether glaucoma is settling in. The way vessels branch or proteins prompt tiny white spots can indicate diabetes or high blood pressure. “Sometimes, when a patient comes in to get their eyes checked, we end up giving them referrals to address other conditions,” says Dr. Carl Westphal, an optometrist at ProMedica in Sylvania. How often should you see an eye doctor? Westphal shares his insight.
Healthy Vision: If you do not wear glasses, make an appointment with an eye doctor at least every two years. Go annually after age 65, when the risk of glaucoma and macular degeneration increases, Westphal says. You’ll be asked to read an eye chart, have your eye pressures checked and participate in tests to make sure eye movement is aligned. “We’ll collect a history to find out if there are family conditions that are of concern,” he says. Expect a vision color test and pupil dilation. “That is how we can check for diseases like glaucoma, macular degeneration and complications from diabetes.”
Glasses and Contact Wearers: While eyeglass prescriptions are valid for two years in Ohio, Westphal recommends an annual visit. If you wear contacts, an annual checkup is a must. “[Contacts] rest on our eyes, so that can make us susceptible to infections, reduce the amount of oxygen that gets to our corneas, and all of that can cause damage to the eye,” he explains. A contact lens exam involves wearing a trial lens to ensure it sits properly on the cornea and allows for eye movement and tear production.
Deeper Vision Mapping: If the doctor suspects possible cornea damage from wearing contact lenses or needs a closer look to examine issues such as cataracts, corneal topography might be in order. This computer diagnostic tool creates a 3D map of the cornea’s surface. “If someone has a high amount of astigmatism, there is a fairly common condition called keratoconus when there is thinning in the layers of the cornea that causes bulging and it can look like a cone, Westphal says.
Special Circumstances. Your doctor might ask to see you more frequently if you have diabetes, high blood pressure or take certain medications. Diabetes can cause a condition called diabetic retinopathy that can result in vision loss and blindness. High blood pressure can trigger blood vessel damage. “A lot of these conditions, when caught early, can be managed,” Westphal says, “We encourage regular eye checkups and annual visits once you turn 65.”