An estimated 60 million American adults are at high risk for vision loss, according to the AOA. Preserve your sight against the most common vision-affecting eye diseases like glaucoma or diabetes by scheduling an annual eye exam.
Diabetes affects a huge portion of the population, making it one of the biggest culprits of vision loss. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) places the number at 20.8 million, with a third of the sufferers unaware they have it. The American Optometric Association (AOA) cites diabetes as the leading cause of new onset blindness in working-age people, with diabetics 25% more likely to lose their vision than the rest of the population. The reason? Sugar buildup in the bloodstream associated with diabetes can break down the capillaries that lead to the retina. Continuing damage to the retinal tissue, called diabetic retinopathy, can end in compromised vision or even blindness.
An eye exam can work in two significant ways when it comes to detecting diseases, including diabetes: diagnosis and treatment. Your optometrist may see fluid or other signs that suggest the need for testing. Once diagnosed, the diabetic eye exam is a crucial step in limiting associated vision loss. With any diabetes diagnosis, your doctor should refer you to an optometrist for a dilated eye exam at least once a year. With early treatment, the AOA has found that 95% of people with significant diabetic retinopathy can avoid substantial vision loss.
Glaucoma is a group of related eye issues that, if left untreated, can result in blindness. The disease damages the optic nerve, which sends the images you see from the eye to the brain. During a specific glaucoma eye exam, your eye doctor will check the inner eye pressure and the shape and color of the optic nerve. People affected won’t experience symptoms until the damage to the nerve has already been done. Similar to diabetes, many people aren’t aware they have glaucoma.
If you're already diabetic, you also have an increased glaucoma risk. (Other glaucoma causes include birth defects or family history, eye injuries or tumors, or certain cataracts.) While there’s no cure for glaucoma, early detection can help preserve remaining vision—just one more reason to schedule an annual eye exam.MINIMIZING MACULAR DEGENERATION
Macular Degeneration is another disease that can harm vision. The macula is a central portion of the retina, and it can deteriorate with age. (The disease is often known as Age-Related Macular Degeneration or AMD). The retina’s job is to sense light, and when that’s impacted, so is vision. Harvard Medical School has reported that AMD is the most common cause of legal blindness among those over age 55. Symptoms of this eye disease include distortion in sight (such as straight lines appearing blurry), changes in color perception, and dark or white areas that appear in the center of vision. An eye doctor can detect AMD in a routine eye exam and order treatments that can minimize or delay its severity.
Some eye disease risk factors (like age) are beyond our control. But here are some things to help prevent eye disease right now. • Advocate for eye health — Insist on routine exams for anyone you care about, yourself included. • Address high blood pressure — It has been associated with eye damage, according to the Mayo Clinic. • Fight obesity — It increases your diabetes risk and is also an AMD risk. Ask your doctor for help. • Quit smoking — It increases your chance of diabetes and AMD.
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