Early Detection is Key to Preventing Vision
Don't wait for symptoms -- regular exams are recommended
(ARA) - Which of your five senses would you most fear losing?
Most people say they fear losing their vision. Our eyesight enables us to
maintain our independence, to gather information, to enjoy the people and places
that are dear to us.
And yet, few of us worry enough about our eyesight to schedule regular eye exams
to detect diseases that can lead to vision loss.
"People say they're too busy or that there is nothing wrong with their vision
and they don't need an eye exam," says Emily Chew, MD, an ophthalmologist at the
National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health. "But it's important
to know that in many instances, there are no symptoms of eye diseases. It's like
high blood pressure: by the time you know something is wrong, it may be too
But early detection of diseases like glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, macular
degeneration and cataracts may prevent vision loss. Regular eye exams, from
infancy to late in life, can be the key.
Chew says guidelines on the frequency of eye exams are divided into two groups:
the general population and those who are at higher risk.
For the general population, eye exams are recommended at 6 months of age, age 3,
age 6 (before entering first grade) and then every two years. From ages 18 to
40, exams through dilated pupils, which allow the eye care professional to view
the back of the eye more clearly, are recommended every two to four years, and
from 40 to 60, every two to three years.
People who may be at higher risk, and the recommendations for each, include:
Premature infants who were given oxygen at birth: frequent
eye exams during childhood
Anyone with a family history of eye disease: a dilated
eye exam every 1 - 2 years
Blacks over age 40: a dilated eye exam every 1 - 2 years
Anyone over age 60: a dilated eye exam every 1 - 2 years
Aeople with diabetes: a dilated eye exam at least every year
Chew cautions that waiting for symptoms to appear before scheduling an eye exam
is not a good idea. "By the time symptoms emerge, often the disease is fairly
advanced and harder to treat," she says. "Once vision is lost, it cannot always
In addition to regular eye exams, there are steps to prevent eye injury and
vision loss, Chew says. Anyone who is involved in a "high velocity" sport such
as hockey, baseball or squash, should wear eye protection such as goggles or
protective glasses. Anyone using tools such as welders and chain saws also
should wear eye protection, whether it's for a professional job or a
do-it-yourself weekend project. Anyone working with chemicals or solvents also
should protect their vision by wearing goggles.
To learn more about protecting your vision, visit the National Eye Institute's
Web site at www.nei.nih.gov.