According to the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), nearly 75 percent of blindness is preventable. Yet, of the 61 million US adults who are at high risk for vision loss, only half visited an eye doctor in the past 12 months. These numbers are concerning and stress the critical importance of regular eye care. Vision screenings and eye exams can have a life-changing impact on the detection and prevention of vision loss, blindness and many complex diseases.
Some of these diseases include:
- Cataracts – the clouding of the eye’s naturally clear lens, which leads to a decrease in vision. They typically develop slowly and can affect one or both of the eyes. Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss in the world. Regular eye examinations can help detect cataracts and other eye problems at their earliest stages.
- Diabetic retinopathy – damage to the retina caused by complications of diabetes, that if left untreated, can lead to blindness. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in American adults and is also one of the most preventable causes of vision loss and blindness. Ninety percent of blindness caused by diabetic retinopathy is considered preventable. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends individuals with diabetes have an eye exam annually or as often as recommended by their ophthalmologist.
- Glaucoma – a disease that damages the eye’s optic nerve, which is vital for vision. This damage is often caused by abnormally high pressure in the eye. Glaucoma has no noticeable symptoms in its early stages and vision loss progresses gradually. Regular comprehensive eye exams can help detect glaucoma in its early stages before significant damage occurs.
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – the deterioration of the macula, which is the small central area of the retina that controls visual acuity. It affects an individual’s central vision, making it difficult to conduct daily tasks such as driving, cooking, reading and recognizing faces. AMD is the leading cause of severe vision loss in adults over age 50.
Early detection and timely treatment for eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration is important and cost-effective. Vision screenings and eye exams can help detect these eye diseases while they are still treatable, ultimately stopping or avoiding vision loss.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends all adults have a baseline, comprehensive dilated eye exam at least by age 40. Individuals 60 and older should have a complete eye exam with follow-up eye exams every one or two years or as indicated by their ophthalmologist. It is imperative for individuals to continue a routine schedule of eye exams even if they have not experienced any noticeable vision problems.