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September is Save Your Sight Month

EyeCare America Promotes Healthy Aging Tips During
September’s Save Your Sight Month

Health Campaign Offers 5 Tips for the Aging Eye

September 1, 2008 – San Francisco, CA - EyeCare America, a national non-profit organization that provides eye exams and eye health information to medically underserved communities, is providing 5 tips for a healthy aging eye in honor of September’s Save Your Sight Month.

“We find that many people don’t pay attention to their health until something goes wrong,” said B. Thomas Hutchinson, MD, chair of EyeCare America’s Seniors EyeCare Program.  “By providing tips for a healthy aging eye during Save Your Sight Month, we are hoping to encourage seniors to be more proactive in the care of their eyes and vision.”

EyeCare America’s 5 Tips for a Healthy Aging Eye:

1. If you are 65 or older, have your eyes examined every one to two years. Periodic medical eye examinations are an important part of routine preventive health care. As one grows older, there is an increasing risk for cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration.  Early diagnosis and treatment are extremely important for protecting you vision and, when possible, preventing permanent vision loss. Early signs of eye disease can develop at as early as 40 years of age to those without a history or symptoms of eye disease. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that everyone have a baseline eye disease screening at 40. If you have any symptoms of or a family history eye disease, see your ophthalmologist as soon as possible.

2. Review and address your family history of eye disease. If you have a family member with an eye disease, such as glaucoma, cataracts, diabetes or age-related macular degeneration, you are at greater risk of developing these diseases. So next time you are at a family gathering remember to ask your family if anyone has an eye disease and/or tell them if you do. By doing so you are taking proactive measures to save your sight and the sight of your family.

3. Protect your eyes from the sun. Spending long hours in the sun without eye protection can damage your eyes by contributing to cataracts, macular degeneration, and growths on the eye, including cancer. Remember to wear 99% and above UV-absorbent sunglasses and a brimmed hat whenever you are in the sun for long periods of time. 

4. Keep your eyes well lubricated. Tear production normally decreases as we age. When your eye stops producing enough tears for healthy eyes this is called dry eye.  You can take steps to prevent your tears from evaporating by using a humidifier, wearing wrap-around glasses, and avoiding overly warm, dry rooms, hair dryers, wind, and smoke. Eyedrops called artificial tears can also help lubricate the eyes. These are available without a prescription. However, if you try these and your eyes are still scratchy or irritated, contact your ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.).

5. See if you qualify for a FREE eye exam.  EyeCare America Seniors EyeCare Program offers eye exams and up to one year of medical care and/or surgical care at no out-of-pocket cost for seniors who are without an ophthalmologist (a medical eye doctor). To see if you, a loved one or a friend, 65 and older, is eligible to receive a referral for an eye exam and care, call 1-800-222-EYES (3937). The Seniors EyeCare Program help line operates 24 hours a day, every day, year-round.

To supplement its award-winning referral program, EyeCare America has a website specifically designed to assist online users in learning more about vision-limiting diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration. The website, eyecareamerica.org, contains up-to-date clinical information about eye diseases that are reviewed by certified ophthalmologists (Eye M.D.s) with links to current treatments and even an interactive tour of the eye’s anatomy. Visitors can share important health topics with family and friends through a convenient email forward function and order free pamphlets that give in-depth information on treatment, tests/diagnosis, causes and risks factors for a wide variety of common eye diseases.

Other easy to use functions include online tools such as a vision simulator, which allows users to see how vision would be affected from common eye diseases, and informative videos, created by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, that will provide visitors with a complete interactive experience.

EyeCare America, a public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, operates one of the largest programs of its kind in American medicine. All eligible callers receive a referral to one of 7,000 EyeCare America volunteer ophthalmologists.  The seniors program provides a comprehensive eye exam and care for any disease detected in the initial visit for up to one year, at no out-of-pocket cost.

EyeCare America's Seniors EyeCare Program is designed for people who:
-
Are US citizens or legal residents
- Are age 65 and older
- Have not seen an ophthalmologist in three or more years
- Do not belong to an HMO or the VA


For a Seniors EyeCare Program referral, those interested may call the toll-free help line 1.800.222.EYES (3937). The Seniors EyeCare Program help line operates all day, every day, year-round.

Volunteer physicians have agreed to accept Medicare or other insurance as payment in full, resulting in no out-of-pocket cost to the patient.  Individuals without insurance of any kind are seen at no charge.

The Seniors EyeCare Program is designed for seniors without an ophthalmologist and is co-sponsored by the Knights Templar Eye Foundation, Inc. and Alcon.


About EyeCare America

Established in 1985, EyeCare America, the public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, is committed to the preservation of sight, accomplishing its mission through public service and education.  EyeCare America provides eye care services to the medically underserved and for those at increased risk for eye disease through its corps of 7,200 volunteer ophthalmologists dedicated to serving their communities.  More than 90 percent of the care made available is provided at no out-of-pocket cost to the patients.  EyeCare America includes programs for seniors, glaucoma, diabetes, AMD and children, and is the largest program of its kind in American medicine.  Since its inception, EyeCare America has helped more than 860,000 people.  EyeCare America is a non-profit program whose success is made possible through charitable contributions from individuals, foundations and corporations.  More information can be found at: www.eyecareamerica.org

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MEDIA CONTACT: Allison Neves, Communications Director – 415.561.8518, aneves@aao.org

NOTE TO EDITORS AND PRODUCERS: High-resolution images and b-roll as well as interviews with EyeCare America spokespeople, physicians and patients available upon request.

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