Eye Health with Dr. Yoon

Our vision is a critical component to the quality of our lives. Ophthalmologist and Cataract Surgeon, Dr. Sara Yoon, helps her patients maintain healthy eyes for a vital life. Dr. Yoon emphasizes to her patients that if to preserve vision, we have to remember our eyes are like any part of our body. We exercise daily, eat healthy and manage stress to stay healthy and age gracefully. Our eyes should not be overlooked!

What can I do to improve the health of my eyes?

Number one: everyone should get an eye screening. There are things we can catch, even if you don’t feel like you have a problem, you may have a problem that’s just not apparent. Aside from that, it’s taking good care of your body: diet, exercise, lifestyle and stress reduction. Our diet matters —we emphasize green, leafy vegetables and vegetables in general, as well as cutting out fast foods. 

Can issues with our eyes point to other issues with our health?

Most definitely. Many patients that see me already have some kind of medical issue or symptoms. By doing a full eye exam, certain eye conditions we can catch early on before patients actually have problems. Patients with diabetes can also have changes in the eye.

How often should you get an eye screening?

It varies from patient to patient. If you’re an adult, 18 an over, it’s important to just get one preliminary screening exam with an ophthalmologist. We really are more interested in your long-term eye health and not focused on selling you eye glasses like some optometrists. So getting a screening done with an ophthalmologist is the best route. If they say everything’s great, I’d say come back in 5 to 10 years. During that exam, if anything is concerning, we’ll have a patient come back in a year to monitor that nothing has changed. Sometimes we see something in the retina that we want to watch closely. Ninety percent of the time I do screenings, the patient is fine. 

When it comes to patients who have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and are on certain medications, their primary doctor will say they need to see the ophthalmologist. Most of those patients need to see the ophthalmologist once a year. Any patient 65 and older should also see an ophthalmologist once a year. Our specialty is more geriatrics. When patients get older, that’s when their cataracts start forming and starts to affect their vision. That’s something almost everyone gets. We all get wrinkles and white hair, so watching the cataracts is important. We also are screening for other serious eye conditions. 

Because many of us are staring at screens all day, have you noticed a rise in eye problems?

Dry eye is the number one problem I see in our younger patients. What happens when we overuse our eyes; staring at our computer screens, looking at our Iphones, playing video games, not sleeping, and being stressed, we dry out the protective tear film over our eyes. It can affect the quality of our vision but it can also be very painful. 

What can we do to protect our eyes and give them a rest?

There’s a lot of measures like taking breaks. There’s the 20-20-20 rules. Every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and look at something 20 feet away. It’s pretty easy to remember. Our eyes aren’t really made to be staring at screens for 10 hours a day. 

Also it’s better to position your computer screen lower so you’re looking down, that way your eyes are not as open. Simple things like this actually matter. 

Do you have any recommendations wearing glasses that protect against blue light?

There was a lot of hype around the glasses. It really is specifically for patients who have migraines and that blocking blue light will help with sensitivity to light. It’s not going to help most patients. Most patients that have issues from staring at screens suffer from dry eye. 

What preventative measures should we take to protect our eyes from the UV rays from the sun?

When you’re out in the sun, you should be wearing sunglasses that block UV wavelengths and not just for the eye and retina, it’s also to protect the skin. Ideally, you should be wearing a wide-brim hat with big sunglasses because we also see eyelid cancers too.

Inside of the eye between the lens and the retina is filled by the vitreous body. This constitutes the majority of the eye. It is transparent and consists of 98 percent water, and 2 percent sodium hyaluronate and collagen fibers. What are your thoughts about our eyes being 98% water?

We call it a PVD, which stands for posterior vitreous detachment. It’s the jelly material inside the eye. It’s like the flesh inside of a grape, it’s clear and has its own architecture. It’s also mainly water. The vitriol body, as we age, it starts to condense. The flesh inside the grape becomes a raisin. This doesn’t happen overnight. When this condenses, usually patients notice around 50 or 60. Hydration is important but it’s also just the aging process. 

Is there anything to preserve the vitreous body?

Again, it’s the aging process. So definitely exercise, eating well and keeping hydrated make a significant difference. 

What influenced you to enter the medical field and become a doctor?

My dad was a pastor, and so he and my mom helped a lot of our church members. Some of our church members were very ill, so my parents would take them to the city hospital. I remember seeing people in the hall waiting and waiting. I thought, ‘I’m not going to treat my patients like this.’ I wanted to go into medicine to help people. I hope I still have that calling and mindset, that I’m going to treat all of my patients the same. My parents were like that and lived that kind of life. 

Dr. Yoon is a comprehensive ophthalmologist and cataract surgeon practicing at Northwell Hospital in New York City.


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