We all know how important it is to stay in tune with our health from head to toe – yet many people assume their eyes are healthy when there may be underlying issues with no outward symptoms.
It isn’t just about needing glasses – even though about 11 million Americans over age 12 need vision correction. That is just one of the reasons to get your eyes examined. Regular eye exams are also an important part of finding eye diseases early and preserving your vision health.
Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control to help ensure you stay on track for healthy vision:
Only Your Eye Doctor Knows for Sure
Eye diseases are common and can go unnoticed for a long time—some have no symptoms at first. A comprehensive dilated eye exam by your ophthalmologist is necessary to find eye diseases in the early stages when treatment to prevent vision loss is most effective.
During the exam, visual acuity (sharpness), depth perception, eye alignment, and eye movement are tested. Eye drops are used to make your pupils larger so your eye doctor can see inside your eyes and check for signs of health problems. Your eye doctor may even spot other conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes, sometimes before your primary care doctor does.
Vision Care Can Change Lives
Early treatment is critically important to prevent some common eye diseases from causing permanent vision loss or blindness:
- Cataracts (clouding of the lens), the leading cause of vision loss in the United States
- Diabetic retinopathy (causes damage to blood vessels in the back of the eye), the leading cause of blindness in American adults
- Glaucoma (a group of diseases that damages the optic nerve)
- Age-related macular degeneration (the gradual breakdown of light-sensitive tissue in the eye)
Of the estimated 61 million US adults at high risk for vision loss, only half visited an eye doctor in the past 12 months. Regular eye care can have a life-changing impact on preserving the vision of millions of people.
Though people tend to have more vision problems as they get older, children need eye exams to ensure vision health, too. But less than 15% of preschool children get an eye exam and less than 22% receive vision screening. A vision screening can reveal a possible vision problem, but can’t diagnose it. A comprehensive dilated eye exam is needed to diagnose eye diseases.
Eye Exams: How Often?
- Children’s eyes should be checked regularly by an eye doctor or pediatrician. The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends vision screening for all children at least once between age 3 and 5 years to detect amblyopia or risk factors for the disease.
- People with diabetes should have a dilated eye exam every year.
- Some people are at higher risk for glaucoma and should have a dilated eye exam every 2 years:
- African Americans 40 years and older
- All adults older than 60, especially Mexican Americans
- People with a family history of glaucoma
Other Reasons to See Your Eye Doctor
If you have any of the following eye problems, don’t wait for your next appointment—visit your eye doctor as soon as possible:
- Decreased vision
- Draining or redness of the eye
- Eye pain
- Double vision
- Floaters (tiny specks that appear to float before your eyes)
- Circles (halos) around lights
- Flashes of light
5 Ways to Protect Your Vision Health
- Get regular eye exams.
- Eat a healthy diet, including leafy greens such as spinach or kale, and maintain a healthy weight.
- Know your family’s eye health history.
- Wear sunglasses that block out 99% to 100% of UV-A and UV-B radiation (the sun’s rays).
- Quit smoking or don’t start.
- Easy on the Eyes: If you spend a lot of time focusing on one thing, such as a computer screen, your eyes can get tired. Try the 20-20-20 rule to reduce eye strain: every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds.
Due to our aging population, the number of blind and visually impaired people in the United States is estimated to double by 2030. Encouraging people to take care of their vision health as part of their overall health and wellness could significantly reduce that number and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans.
CDC’s Vision Health Initiative (VHI)
VHI promotes vision health and quality of life for all people by preventing and controlling eye disease, eye injury, and vision loss that results in disability. Find out more at www.cdc.gov/visionhealth.