(RxWiki News) The National Eye Institute is gearing up for the May kick off of Healthy Vision Month by reminding, that while vision may change with age, vision loss is not a normal part of the aging process.
It's not uncommon for sight to be lost from common eye diseases such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and age-related macular degeneration, but that doesn't mean the conditions can't be detected and treated early.
"Get regular eye exams to maintain healthy vision."
Officials with the National Eye Institute are urging individuals to seek timely eye exams to ensure early diagnosis and ensure they receive life-saving treatment and follow up care to prevent vision loss.
Earlier stages of common eye diseases usually do not have symptoms and can only be detected through comprehensive dilated eye exams. Doctors use the pupil dilation to examine the back of the eye for signs of disease.
In addition, some patients are at a higher risk of developing eye disease, yet they may not be aware of that fact. Glaucoma risk is highest among African-Americans over the age of 40 and anyone over the age of 60. Mexican Americans and patients with a family history of glaucoma also are at a higher risk.
Glaucoma involves damage to the optic nerve, where information is relayed between the retina and brain.
Patients over the age of 50, particularly those who are white, smoke or have a family history of the condition, are at the highest risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. The condition occurs when cells in the macula break down, and can lead to blindness.
Diabetic retinopathy causes blockage, swelling and leakage of blood vessels that supply the retina. It affects patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
"Patients often accept reduced vision as simply a part of aging but the truth is that the eye is a remarkable organ designed to last and function well for your entire life," said Dr. Christopher Quinn, an optometrist with Omni Eye Associates.
"When vision deteriorates there is always a cause and many of those causes (like cataracts, glaucoma or macular degeneration) can be treated. Any time patients notice decreased vision, they should promptly get a comprehensive eye exam with dilation of the pupils to identify the cause. Elderly patients in general would benefit from an annual eye exam since some treatable conditions may exist even before vision deteriorates."
Healthy Vision Month was established in May 2003 to increase awareness of the importance of early diagnosis and treatment.