Is it Time for an Eye Exam?

Healthy Vision Month encourages eye exams and eye health steps

(RxWiki News) If you don't have vision problems and eye health isn't on the top of your mind, it can be easy for the years to pass by without ever visiting an eye doctor. But skipping these appointments could delay the discovery of serious conditions.

May is Healthy Vision Month and organizers are encouraging the public to be aware of potential eye conditions, play an active role in the health of their eyes and visit an eye care professional.

"Schedule regular eye exams."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), problems with vision become more common as people age and tend to hit harder among certain groups, such as women, those with chronic diseases and certain minority groups.

“While some eye conditions, like cataract, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration, can cause vision loss and even blindness, others, such as refractive errors, are common problems that can be easily corrected with glasses or contact lenses,” the CDC reports.

The National Eye Institute (NEI), an organizer of the awareness month, along with the CDC’s Vision Health Initiative, provides a variety of ways that people can protect their eyes, including not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, wearing sunglasses and knowing their family eye health history.

The NEI also recommends patients rest their eyes when focusing on a computer or anything else for long periods of time, suggesting, “Try the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds.” This should help keep eyes from fatiguing and straining.

The NEI also stresses the importance of getting a comprehensive dilated eye exam, even if you are experiencing no symptoms or vision problems.

In a dilated eye exam, drops are put into the eyes to widen the pupils. This lets more light into the eye, allowing the doctor to see clearly into the back of the eyes and look for signs of a problem.

In an interview with dailyRx News, Christopher Quinn, OD, FAAO (Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry), said, "Having a comprehensive eye examination is a critical health check that is often put off especially when patients don’t experience blurred vision."

"An eye examination is the only physical examination in which the doctor can actually directly visually examine blood vessels and nerve tissue. This allows diagnosis of a wide variety of both ocular and systemic health conditions," said Dr. Quinn.

“Many common eye diseases such as glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, and age-related macular degeneration often have no warning signs,” explains the NEI. “A dilated eye exam is the only way to detect these diseases in their early stages.”

Diabetics should pay extra attention to the health of their eyes, as the CDC reports that diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes, is the most common cause of adult blindness. Because of this common condition, it is especially important for diabetics to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam annually.

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Review Date: 
May 17, 2013