By Mark Siegel, MD FAAO
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 age 40 or older and have not had a recent eye disease screening, The American Academy of Ophthalmology (Academy) 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’s 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 of vision loss.
Unfortunately, millions of people will suffer significant vision loss and blindness because they don’t know their risks. I can’t stress enough the importance of getting regular eye exams, because knowing your risks can save your sight.
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 those individuals see their ophthalmologist to determine how frequently their eyes should be examined. Based on the results of the initial screening, an ophthalmologist will prescribe the necessary intervals for follow-up exams.
The academy recommends the following for regular eye disease screening: ages 65 or older, every 1-2 years; ages 55-64, every 1-3 years; ages 40-54, every 2-4 years; under age 40, 5-10 years.
Eye diseases become more common as we age, but eye problems can occur at any age. By getting a comprehensive eye exam, and following through with the recommendation of your doctor, it can be the difference in saving your vision or preventing further vision loss later in life. Many patients will have no recognizable symptoms of vision loss which is why it’s important to identify, monitor and treat early.