Vision might change as we get older, but vision loss is not a normal part of aging. Common eye diseases such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and age-related macular degeneration threaten millions of Americans, potentially robbing them of vision, mobility, and independence.
New technologies are making a difference, but early diagnosis, timely treatment, and appropriate follow-up care are essential to preventing irreversible vision loss.
Early stages of common eye diseases typically have no symptoms and can only be detected through a comprehensive dilated eye exam. If you are over 40, a dilated eye exam is recommended yearly, especially if you are at higher risk for eye disease.
As an example, Glaucoma, which causes “silent” damage to the optic nerve, is more common in people with certain risk factors such as African-Americans ages 40 and older; everyone ages 60 and older, especially Latin Americans; and people with a family history of the disease.
The number one cause of permanent loss of vision in people under age 60 is diabetic retinopathy. Also for people over 60, the risk for age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) rises significantly.
All of these conditions progress without any symptoms at all. The good news is that with early detection through regular eye exams, they are all manageable. Vision loss is mostly preventable if treatment is started before the damage is done.
Recent clinical trials sponsored by the National Eye Institute have shown great progress in the prevention of AMRD-related vision loss. The latest study results (known as AREDS) determined that people at high risk of developing AMRD could lower their risk by about 25 percent by taking vitamins with certain antioxidants and minerals – another reason to eat your spinach and other green leafy vegetables.
So, do your older self a favor and think about how important your vision is during healthy vision month. If it has been more than a year since your last eye exam, schedule an appointment and then ask your eye doctor about any of your risk factors. Awareness and regular eye care can make a difference. Much like regular dental care!
Make healthy vision last a lifetime. During Healthy Vision Month, encourage friends and family to make eye health a priority. For more information about keeping eyes healthy, visit https://www.nei.nih.gov/hvm/ and download a healthy vision month toolkit.
Guest post from eyeQuest Vision Director Vidya Baliga