May marked the start of Healthy Vision Month, a perfect time to think about the importance of preventative eye care in healthy vision, clear sight and overall wellness. Unfortunately, vision care is an area that many people may overlook into their routine care. Just as eating well and getting exercise are signs of a healthy lifestyle, routine vision eye care is equally important.
Preventive eye care services – such as eye exams, vision acuity tests and glaucoma tests – can help diagnose and prevent vision problems – such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration – from becoming severe and impacting daily life. For example, during a comprehensive dilated eye exam, an eye care professional will use drops to widen the pupils and test not only visual acuity, eye movement and side vision, but will also check eye pressure and topography of the retina, optic nerve and back of the eye. In fact, an eye exam is the only non-invasive means by which an ophthalmologist or optometrist can actually see your blood vessels and note any changes or damage to the retinal blood vessels that could reflect abnormalities affecting the brain, heart and more.
Eye exams can also provide more than just vision correction – in addition to detecting the leading causes of blindness, eye exams play a critical role in the diagnosis of more than 30 chronic medical conditions, often before a patient has symptoms. An early diagnosis allows eye doctors to help their patients proactively manage any concerns, often before patients realize action is needed. What’s more, this can also reduce health costs by getting ahead of previously undiagnosed diseases that can lead to high healthcare costs down the road.
Healthy Vision Month is a great time to remind members of all ages about the role of routine vision care in their lives. While older adults are the most likely age group to have vision problems, routine eye exams can be helpful for children, even as young as preschool. According to the CDC, only one out of seven preschoolers receives an eye exam and fewer than a quarter receive some type of vision screening. However, poor vision can impact learning and school success, when children cannot easily see written words, their teacher’s writing or their computer screens. Clear and healthy vision can improve learning and academic outcomes in children, who often get misdiagnosed with learning disorders when they are in fact experiencing vision problems.
The future of eye care is bright – according to our second annual Vision Wellness Study, Americans are increasingly recognizing the importance of eye care, with 81% of respondents receiving an eye exam in the past two years, compared to 77% who said the same in the inaugural study. People are also starting to see how eye health connects to whole health: For all respondents, including those who have not seen an eye doctor in the past two years, the ability to identify eye diseases and the ability to identify other serious health conditions, such as diabetes, ranked as the top two services that would make them more likely to schedule an eye doctor appointment, supporting the role of eye health as a window into overall health.
Additionally, with the rise in telemedicine, the future of eye care access is evolving. Technology can make people more likely to schedule an appointment, and online retail to purchase eyewear can be a cost-effective option to enabling clear sight. Of important note, telemedicine cannot replace in person eye care, but rather strengthen the relationship between patients and their doctors to ensure that healthy vision is always available.
So, if you haven’t already, take a moment this Healthy Vision Month to schedule an eye exam (especially if you haven’t seen an eye doctor within two years), and share the importance of healthy vision with members, friends and family.
Beyond Healthy Vision Month, consider using the below tips to promote lifelong eye health.
- Wash your hands – especially before touching your eyes
- Safely handle and store contacts
- Avoid risky cosmetic procedures
- Wear eye protection
- Eat eye-healthy foods
- Manage blood sugar, cholesterol and blood sugar
- Rest your eyes
- Stop smoking
- See an eye care professional