When it comes to our health, we often visit our doctor or nurse regularly to make sure our bodies are healthy. But what about our eyes? They’re not always top of mind, but they’re just as important.
During Healthy Vision Month, held each year in May, Glaucoma Research Foundation joins the National Eye Institute and other national eye health organizations in empowering Americans to make their eye health a priority and educating them about steps they can take to protect their vision.
Get a dilated eye exam. Getting a dilated eye exam is the only way to catch eye diseases early, because with many, there are no warning signs. Talk to your eye care professional about how often you should have one.
Live a healthy lifestyle. Eating healthy foods including green leafy vegetables, maintaining a healthy weight, managing chronic conditions, and not smoking can significantly lower your risk of eye disease.
Know your family history. Talk to your family members about their eye health history. It’s important to know if anyone has been diagnosed with an eye disease, since many (like glaucoma) are hereditary. This will help to determine if you are at higher risk for developing an eye disease yourself.
Use protective eyewear. Protect your eyes when doing chores around the house, playing sports, or on the job to prevent eye injuries from happening. This includes wearing safety glasses, goggles, safety shields, and eye guards that are made of polycarbonate.
Wear sunglasses. When purchasing sunglasses, look for ones that block out 99 to 100% of both UVA and UVB radiation, so you can keep your vision sharp and eyes healthy. A hat offers great protection, too!
Taking these steps can help prevent vision loss, blindness, and many eye diseases and conditions from occurring.
Healthy Vision and Higher Risk
Americans agree that eyesight has a huge impact on day-to-day living and is one of the senses they fear losing most. Unfortunately, people often do not pay attention to their eye health unless they notice a problem. Many common eye diseases that can lead to vision loss and blindness, such as diabetic eye disease, glaucoma, or age-related macular degeneration (AMD), often have no early warning signs or symptoms.
Having regular eye exams to make sure the eyes are healthy and seeing their best is important for everyone. However, the risk of vision loss and blindness is higher for some people based on race, ethnicity, and other demographic and socioeconomic factors. You might be at higher risk for eye disease if you have a family history of eye disease; have diabetes; are African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, or Alaska Native; or are older than 50. Some diseases affect certain populations disproportionately.
- Glaucoma, which affects your side or peripheral vision first, is three times more common in African Americans than in Whites. It is a leading cause of blindness in African Americans.
- Diabetic retinopathy, a leading cause of blindness caused by uncontrolled diabetes, occurs more often in Hispanics/Latinos than in Whites.
- American Indians and Alaska Natives are 35 percent more likely to have diabetes than the average adult in the United States, putting them at increased risk of diabetic eye disease.
- Older adults are at higher risk of developing age-related eye diseases and conditions such as AMD, glaucoma, or cataract. AMD is a leading cause of blindness in Whites.
If you are at higher risk of eye disease, having a comprehensive dilated eye exam is the best thing you can do to protect your vision. A comprehensive dilated eye exam is a painless procedure where your eye care professional puts drops in the eyes to dilate, or widen, the pupil so he or she can get a good look at the back of the eye to check for signs of eye disease. With early detection, treatment can slow or stop vision loss and reduce the risk of blindness.”
In addition to having regular eye exams, eating a healthy diet, not smoking, and wearing protective eyewear are just a few other things you can do to protect your sight.
The NEI offers a variety of resources you can use in May and throughout the year to promote the importance of eye health. Visit the Healthy Vision Month Website to view the free resources available, including videos, shareable social media content, and more.
Source: National Eye Institute