The month of May is Healthy Vision Month. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 12 million people 40 years and over in the United States have vision impairment. Roughly 6.8% of children younger than 18-years-old have a diagnosed eye and vision condition. While many people are born with irreversible blindness, early detection and timely treatment of eye conditions have been found to be effective in improving and, in some cases, reversing the issue. To help raise awareness of Healthy Vision, here are three facts that you should know about your vision.
Vision Health for All Ages
- Although older adults tend to have more vision problems, preschoolers may not see as well as they can.
- Just 1 out of every 7 preschoolers receives an eye exam, and fewer than 1 out of every 4 receives some type of vision screening.
- The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends vision screening for all children aged 3 to 5 years to find conditions such as amblyopia, or lazy eye, which can be treated effectively if caught early.
An estimated 11 million Americans aged 12 years and older could see better if they used corrective lenses, or eye surgery, if appropriate.
Some eye conditions cause vision loss and even blindness, including
- Cataracts, a clouding of the eye.
- Diabetic retinopathy, which causes damage to the blood vessels in the back of the eye.
- Glaucoma, damage to the optic nerve, often with increased eye pressure.
- Age-related macular degeneration, which gradually affects central vision.
90% of blindness caused by diabetes is preventable: Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in diabetics ages 20 to 74. The condition can develop in anyone who has type 1 or type 2 diabetes. At first, diabetic retinopathy may cause no symptoms or only mild vision problems. Eventually, it can cause blindness. Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include: spots or dark strings floating in your vision (floaters), blurred vision, fluctuating vision and impaired color vision. It usually affect both eyes.
Ways to help protect your vision:
- Get regular comprehensive dilated eye exams.
- Know your family’s eye health history. It’s important to know if anyone has been diagnosed with an eye disease or condition, since some are hereditary.
- Eat right to protect your sight: In particular, eat plenty of dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, or collard greens, and fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, albacore tuna, trout, and halibut.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Wear protective eyewear when playing sports or doing activities around the home, such as painting, yard work, and home repairs.
- Quit smoking or never start.
- Wear sunglasses that block 99 percent-100 percent of ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation.
- Wash your hands before taking out your contacts to avoid infection.
- Practice workplace eye safety.
Eyes and Overall Health
Annual eye exams are your best defense against visual impairments: Routine eye exams are straightforward, quick and painless. Most doctors recommend screening your vision on an annual basis to ensure your vision prescription is up to date, or to determine if you need one. Regular eye exams are the first line of defense against eye disorders, such as chronic dry eye, inflammation, glaucoma, age-related issues and cataracts.
Facial sunscreen and sunglasses are a great way to safeguard your eyes: According to Skincancer.org, UV radiation can cause serious eye conditions like cataracts, macular degeneration and keratitis (aka corneal sunburn). Nearly all of these sun-related eye conditions can be treated in some way, alleviating the side effects if not reversing the damage altogether.
People with vision problems are more likely than those with good vision to have diabetes, poor hearing, heart problems, high blood pressure, lower back pain and strokes, as well as have increased risk for falls, injury and depression.
Among people aged 65 and older, 54.2 percent of those who are blind and 41.7 percent of those with impaired vision say their overall health is fair or poor. Just 21.5 percent of older Americans without vision problems reported fair to poor health.
In addition to your comprehensive dilated eye exams, visit an eye care professional if you have
- Decreased vision.
- Eye pain.
- Drainage or redness of the eye.
- Double vision.
- Floaters (tiny specks that appear to float before your eyes).
- Circles (halos) around light sources; or
- If you see flashes of light.
For this Healthy Vision Month, take care of your eyes to make them last a lifetime.
Content source: CDC/Vision Health; and the Division of Diabetes Translation.