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Don't lose sight of your eye health
For many people, good vision means good eye health, but that may not always be the case. Regular eye exams can catch problems before it's too late. If you are 40 or older and have not had a recent eye disease screening, The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends making an appointment for an eye exam. It is an essential step toward preserving vision and keeping eyes healthy, and there is no better time than February — Save Your Vision Month.
By 2020, 43 million Americans will be at risk for significant vision loss or blindness from age-related eye diseases, such as cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and macular degeneration — an increase of more than 50 percent over the current number of Americans with these diseases. Despite the statistics, many Americans are more concerned about weight gain or back pain than they are vision loss.
The first step in preventing vision loss is to get a baseline eye exam at the age of 40. This is the age when early signs of eye disease and changes in vision may first occur. For individuals at any age with symptoms of, or at risk for, eye disease (such as those with a family history of eye disease, diabetes or high blood pressure), the Academy recommends seeing your ophthalmologist to determine how frequently your eyes should be examined. Based on the results of the initial screening, your ophthalmologist will prescribe the necessary intervals for follow-up exams.
Don't take your eyes for granted
Imagine what life would be like if you couldn't see well. Reading might not be possible. Watching a movie could be tough. Focusing on the face of a loved one could drive you to tears.
The number of people losing their vision is growing, yet experts say much of this vision loss could be prevented.
Don't put off regular eye exams because your eyes feel fine or you don't wear glasses or contact lenses. Signs of some eye diseases, such as glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), are present before you might notice symptoms.
The National Eye Institute says more than 3.3 million Americans ages 40 and older have blindness or low vision. The institute projects that figure will increase markedly by the year 2020. The percentage of people more than 60 years old who suffer vision loss is growing fast, too.
People who are 60 or older should have an annual eye exam even if they are seeing well.
Many diseases cause vision loss as we age, but AMD is the Western world's top cause of blindness. Leading to loss of your central vision, it may cause dark spots in your sight, make straight lines appear wavy, or cause text to seem blurry. AMD, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and dry eye syndrome can all rob you of sight.
It's best to see your eye doctor before trouble starts. But these signs should prompt a visit at once:
- Trouble seeing objects close up or far away
- Colors that seem faded
- Poor night vision
- Double or multiple vision
- Loss of side vision
- Poor central vision or straight objects that look wavy
- Blurry text or type
Save aging eyes
- See your eye doctor regularly (each year if you're 60 or older)
- Don't smoke
- Use sunglasses that block ultraviolet (UV) rays in bright sun or at high altitudes
- Exercise regularly
- Eat healthy
Visit the following links for more information:
Eye examinations »
For healthy eyes, take the long view »
Eye care essentials for computer users »
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a complicated disease in which damage to the optic nerve leads to progressive, irreversible vision loss. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness.
Glaucoma is a very misunderstood disease. Often, people don't realize the severity or who is affected. The diagnosis of glaucoma is made when your eye doctor notices a particular type of damage in the optic nerve known as "cupping." This diagnostic finding can occur with or without high intraocular pressure.
Four Key Facts About Glaucoma
- Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness
- There is no cure (yet) for glaucoma
- Everyone is at risk for glaucoma
- There may be no symptoms to warn you
Care and Treatment
With the facts about glaucoma, you can take charge of your health with a few adjustments to your routine. Caring for your eyes may include medication, surgery, or a combination of glaucoma treatments.
Visit http://www.glaucoma.org/ for more information.
Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness
Diabetes is a very serious disease that can cause problems such as blindness, heart disease, kidney failure, and amputations. Diabetic eye disease has no warning signs. But by taking good care of yourself through diet, exercise, and special medications, you can control diabetes. And there is more good news. Diabetic eye disease, a complication of diabetes, can be treated before vision loss occurs.
Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness among working-age adults in the United States. Yet with early detection and timely treatment, diabetic eye disease can be controlled. The key is to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. By doing this, you can help reduce your risk of vision loss and blindness.
Diabetes-related eye complications are common. If left untreated, they lead to the deterioration of vision and, ultimately, blindness. Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye problems that people with diabetes may face as a complication of this disease. All can cause severe vision loss or even blindness.
Diabetic eye disease includes:
- Diabetic retinopathy: Damage to the blood vessels in the retina.
- Cataract: Clouding of the lens of the eye. Cataracts develop at an earlier age in people with diabetes.
- Glaucoma: Increase in fluid pressure inside the eye that leads to optic nerve damage and loss of vision. A person with diabetes is nearly twice as likely to get glaucoma as other adults.
If you have diabetes, you should have your eyes examined at least once a year. Your eyes should be dilated during the exam, which means eyedrops are used to enlarge your pupils. This dilation allows the eye care professional to see more of the inside of your eyes to check for signs of the disease.
For more information, visit:
Coming in December: Safe Toys and Celebration Month
Eye Injury Prevention
Protecting your eyes from injury is one of the most basic things you can do to keep your vision healthy throughout your life. The best ways to prevent injury to the eye is to always wear the appropriate eye protection. In addition to the proper safety eyewear, early detection and treatment of eye conditions and diseases are essential to maintaining good vision at every stage of life. Here are some tips to avoid non-impact eye injuries.
You may be somewhat aware of the possible risks of eye injuries, but are you taking the easiest step of all to prevent 90 percent of those injuries: Wearing the proper protective eyewear? It is estimated that over 90% of eye injuries are preventable with the use of proper safety eyewear. To be effective, eyewear must fit properly and be designed to effectively protect the wearer from falling or flying objects, or sparks striking the eye.
If you are not taking this step, you are not alone. According to a national survey by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, only 35 percent of respondents said they always wear protective eyewear when performing home repairs or maintenance; even fewer do so while playing sports. Remember to help your children stay healthy, too! Here are some steps you can take to help them.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, AAO, children with a family history of childhood vision problems should be screened for common childhood eye problems before the age of 5. Although most young adults have healthy vision, if eye problems such as visual changes, pain, flashes of light, seeing spots, excessive tearing, and excessive dryness occur, they should see an eye doctor. Adults between the ages of 40 to 65 should have an eye exam every two to four years. Adults over the age of 65 should have an eye exam at least every one to two years. Ultimately, the key to preventing eye injuries is to take a more proactive approach to sustaining healthy vision.
If you have suffered an eye injury, review these care and treatment recommendations. But most importantly, have an ophthalmologist or other medical doctor examine the eye as soon as possible, even if the injury seems minor.
Eye Injury Facts and Myths
- Men are more likely to sustain an eye injury than women.
- Most people believe that eye injuries are most common on the job — especially in the course of work at factories and construction sites. But, in fact, nearly half (44.7 percent) of all eye injuries occurred in the home, as reported during the fifth-annual Eye Injury Snapshot (conducted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Ocular Trauma).
- More than 40 percent of eye injuries reported in the Eye Injury Snapshot were caused by projects and activities such as home repairs, yard work, cleaning and cooking. More than a third (34.2 percent) of injuries in the home occurred in living areas such as the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, living or family room.
- More than 40 percent of eye injuries every year are related to sports or recreational activities.
- Eyes can be damaged by sun exposure, not just chemicals, dust or objects.
- Among all eye injuries reported in the Eye Injury Snapshot, more than 78 percent of people were not wearing eyewear at the time of injury. Of those reported to be wearing eyewear of some sort at the time of injury (including glasses or contact lenses), only 5.3 percent were wearing safety or sports glasses.
Ophthalmology and Eye Injuries
Nearly a dozen ophthalmology organizations are working together to help reduce the rate of eye injuries by encouraging people to wear protective eyewear. Find out who here.
Eye Injury Prevention Resources
To learn more about preventing eye injuries, please visit the following websites:
American Academy of Ophthalmology
Eye and Face Protection E-Tool from DOL
Workplace Eye Safety
Eye Injury Prevention at Home
Eye Injury Prevention at Work
Children’s Eye Injuries: Prevention and Care
Children's Eye Health and Safety
Monitoring your child's ability to see is an important part of the health of your growing child.
When an infant first emerges into the world, his or her eyesight is immature. While the infant can see the form of his or her mother and can tell the difference between light and dark, the ability to focus has not been developed. Newborns respond best to objects that are approximately one foot away, and are attracted brightly colored, or high-contrast, objects. They typically have a 90 degree field of vision.
By three months of age, babies develop coordination between both eyes. This allows them to perceive depth and learn about spatial relationships. Most infants can track moving objects. Colors, details and mobiles in motion fascinate babies this age and aid in visual development. They will begin to reach for toys in their field of vision.
3 to 6 Months
When a baby is three to six months of age, the retina in the eye is well developed and the infant’s visual acuity has improved enough to allow small details to be seen. Depth perception is also developing.
At six months of age, an infant’s eye is about two thirds the size of an adult eye. By this age, both eyes are working together and depth perception is continuing to improve.
1 Year Old
By the age of one, hand-eye coordination is practiced by children and can be enhanced by games involving pointing, grasping, tossing, placing and catching.
2 to 5 Years Old
A preschooler is typically eager to draw and look at pictures. Stories connected to images can help the child become engaged and helps coordinate vision and hearing.
Keep in mind that as your child progresses through school, the print in his or her textbook will decrease in size. Also, they may need to begin utilizing the chalkboard or a computer monitor for some assignments.
Facts about vision problems
Without proper screening, vision problems may not be noticed.
Risk factors for having problems with vision
The following are some of the risk factors that may increase your child's chances for having some problems with his or her vision:
- Maternal infections while pregnant
- Heart disease in the infant
- Any problems with the actual structure of the eye that the child is born with
- Family history of problems with vision
- Hearing problems
- Premature infant
- Trauma to the eye
Without good vision, a child’s ability to learn and comprehend the world around them suffers. Since many vision impairments begin at an early age, proper care and early detection is key to ensuring a lifetime of success and independence for children.
Ensure early detection by scheduling an annual eye exam. If you notice the following problems with your child between appointments, see your regular eye doctor right away:
- Frequent eye rubbing or blinking
- Frequent headaches
- Covering one eye
- Short attention span
- Avoiding reading assignments or holding reading materials close to the face
- An eye turning in or out
- Seeing double
- Losing his or her place when reading
- Difficulty with reading retention
Cataract awareness month
A cataract is a clouding or opaque area over the lens of the eye–an area that is normally transparent. As this thickening occurs, it prevents light rays from passing through the lens and focusing on the retina–the light sensitive tissue lining located in the back of the eye. This clouding is caused when some of the protein which makes up the lens begins to clump together and interferes with vision.
What do you know about cataracts? Test your knowledge with this quiz »
Learn more about cataracts »
Fireworks eye safety awareness month
July is Fireworks Eye Safety Awareness Month, and through its EyeSmart™ campaign the American Academy of Ophthalmology wants to remind consumers to leave fireworks to professionals. Among the most serious injuries are abrupt trauma to the eye from bottle rockets, due to the way the rockets fly erratically, often injuring bystanders. Injuries from bottle rockets can include eye lid lacerations, corneal abrasions, traumatic cataract, retinal detachment, optic nerve damage, rupture of the eyeball, eye muscle damage, and complete blindness.Never let children play with fireworks of any type.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:
- More than 9,000 fireworks-related injuries occur each year.
- Of these, nearly half are head-related injuries with nearly 30 percent of these injuries to the eyes.
- One-fourth of fireworks eye injuries result in permanent vision loss or blindness.
- Children are the most common victims of firework accidents, with those fifteen years old or younger accounting for half of all fireworks eye injuries in the United States.
- For children under the age of five, seemingly innocent sparklers account for one-third of all fireworks injuries.
- Sparklers can burn at nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to cause a third-degree burn.
Don’t let an accident spoil your celebration. Each year, thousands of people are injured by fireworks in June and July and almost half of those injured are children and teenagers. Over a thousand of those are eye injuries. Fireworks can cause devastating and life-changing injuries that range from skin burns and thermal burns of the eye to bleeding in the eye, retinal detachment, and even a ruptured globe and blindness.
Fireworks safety tips
For a safe and healthy Independence Day celebration, the Academy urges observance of the following fireworks safety tips:
Simple ways to protect yourself and your children include staying at least 500 feet away from fireworks, allowing trained professionals to light fireworks and not allowing children to handle any fireworks. If you find unexploded fireworks, call your police or fire department to dispose of them. Do not touch them or try to light them.
If you suffer an injury due to fireworks, especially to your eyes, seek help immediately!
- Do not rub the eyes
- Do not rinse the eyes
- Do not apply pressure
- Do not put on ointments or take any blood thinning pain medications (aspirin, ibuprofen)
- If you get an eye injury from fireworks, seek medical help immediately.
For more information, visit:
Have a safe holiday and don’t play with any fireworks! Leave the fireworks to the professionals - visit a public fireworks display instead.
UV Safety Month
UV Safety Month is a great time to spread the message of sun, fun and UV safety to your community. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the main cause of skin cancer. UV rays can also damage your eyes.
Anyone can get skin cancer, but the risk is greatest for people with:
- White or light-colored skin with freckles
- Blond or red hair
- Blue or green eyes
You can take these steps to help prevent skin cancer:
- Stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher.
- Cover up with long sleeves and a hat.
- Check your skin regularly for any changes.
Be cool. Wear your shades. UV rays can hurt your eyes. Sunglasses are a great fashion accessory, but their most important job is to protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. When purchasing sunglasses, look for ones that block out 99 percent to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation.
Healthy Vision Month
The National Eye Institute has declared that May is Healthy Vision Month and stresses the importance of a comprehensive dilated eye exam in maintaining healthy vision.
According to the National Eye Institute, "millions of people living in the United States have undetected vision problems, eye diseases and conditions." Healthy Vision Month is designed to elevate vision as a health priority for the nation by promoting the importance of early detection and treatment, as well as the use of proper eye safety practices, in preventing vision loss and blindness.
One of the most important things people can do to protect their vision is to schedule a comprehensive dilated eye exam. In this painless procedure, an eye care professional examines the eyes to look for common vision problems and eye diseases, many of which have no early warning signs. A comprehensive dilated eye exam can detect eye diseases and conditions in their early stages, before vision loss occurs. Early detection and treatment can help to save your sight.
The aim of Healthy Vision Month is education for early detection and treatment of vision problems, eye diseases and conditions, with the goal to prevent future vision loss and even blindness. Early detection can help save your sight.
For more information see your eye care professional or visit the National Eye Institute.
April is national Sports Eye Safety Awareness Month.
Thousands of people are injured each year playing some form of sport (boxing, ice hockey, baseball, racquet sports, soccer, etc.) or while involved in home repairs, yard work, cleaning and cooking. But with a little education and use of appropriate eye wear, most eye injuries can be prevented. Regular eyeglasses do not offer the protection necessary to prevent eye injuries.
Prevention of eye Injuries begins with education, especially for monocular patients, and choosing eye wear designed for the specific sport. A helmet with a polycarbonate facemask or wire shield is advised for hockey, baseball and lacrosse. Be sure that the hockey mask is approved by the Hockey Equipment Certification Council or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) for hockey and that the eye guard meets or exceeds the requirements set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) or that it passes the CSA racquet sports standard for contact sports.
When working with any of the following materials, always wear goggles or plastic spectacles:
- Pellet or BB guns
- Fishing hooks
- Bows and arrows
- Lawn mowers
- Weed trimmers
- Champagne corks
Always wear 100 percent UV-blocking sunglasses if you are exposed to sunlight or snowfields for extended periods of time.
Should an injury occur, see an ophthalmologist or go to the emergency room immediately, even for a minor injury. Delaying treatment can result in permanent vision loss or blindness.