Blindness and visual impairment affect millions of Americans. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical to prevent or minimize vision loss from eye diseases. March is Save Your Vision Month and a time to educate and encourage all Americans to take action to protect their vision.
Close to 75 percent of Americans believe that their sight is the most important sense they have. Yet only about 40 percent of Americans have an annual eye exam, and a full 85 percent admit that they do not care for their eyes as much as they should.
Most people have limited knowledge of blinding eye disorders. In a 2005 study by the National Eye Institute only 8 percent of respondents knew that glaucoma, a condition that can damage the optic nerve and cause vision loss and blindness, strikes without early warning. Similarly, only 11 percent knew that diabetic eye disease also begins as a silent vision threat.
Most Americans don’t realize that the two leading causes of blindness in America cases are often preventable by detection in the early stages with an eye exam by their optometrist.
The tragic vision loss by glaucoma, diabetes, macular degeneration and hundreds of other eye diseases pose a serious problem for our aging population. Likewise children need regular vision screenings because vision disorders left untreated during childhood can lead to permanent visual impairment during adulthood. Significant numbers of children in special reading program or that have delayed learning abilities often have undetected problems with their vision.
Although a child may see well without glasses, problems with eye teaming or focusing skills can delay their progress in school. School screenings have been shown to miss up to 87 percent of children with vision difficulties. A thorough eye exam by your eye doctor is often the only way to detect these eye problems.
The eyes are one of the places in our bodies where a doctor can directly examine blood vessels and nerve tissue. An eye exam can detect early changes in the vasculature (i.e. from high cholesterol or high blood pressure) that can lead to stroke or heart attacks. Certain types of brain tumors, cancers, drug toxicities, and neurological diseases are also detectable in an eye exam.
So make Save Your Vision Month a success and help prevent unneeded blindness by calling your eye doctor for an appointment today.
Dr. Doug Herriott, a guest writer for the Lees Summit Health Education Advisory Board, a Mayor-appointed, volunteer board that promotes and advocates community health by assessing health issues, educating the public and government agencies, developing plans to address health issues, encouraging partnerships and evaluating the outcomes.