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January 28, 2011

Don't Lose Sight of Your Eye Health

American Academy of Ophthalmology Reminds Americans of the Importance of Regular Eye Exams During Save Your Vision Month


SAN FRANCISCO - For many people, good vision means good eye health but that may not always be the case. Regular eye exams can catch problems before it's too late. If you are age 40 or older and have not had a recent eye disease screening, The American Academy of Ophthalmology (Academy) recommends making an appointment for an eye exam. It is an essential step toward preserving vision and keeping eyes healthy and there is no better time than February's Save Your Vision Month.

By 2020, 43 million Americans will be at risk for significant vision loss or blindness from age-related eye diseases, such as cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and macular degeneration, an increase of more than 50 percent over the current number of Americans with these diseases. Despite the statistics, many Americans are more concerned about weight gain or back pain than they are of vision loss.

"Unfortunately, millions of people will suffer significant vision loss and blindness because they don't know their risks," said Aaron Weingeist, MD, an ophthalmologist in Seattle and a clinical correspondent for the Academy. "I can't stress enough the importance of getting regular eye exams, because knowing your risks can save your sight."

The first step in preventing vision loss is to get a baseline eye exam at the age of 40. This is the age when early signs of eye disease and changes in vision may first occur. For individuals at any age with symptoms of, or at risk for, eye disease (such as those with a family history of eye disease, diabetes or high blood pressure), the Academy recommends those individuals see their ophthalmologist to determine how frequently their eyes should be examined. Based on the results of the initial screening, an ophthalmologist will prescribe the necessary intervals for follow-up exams.

The Academy recommends the following for regular eye disease screening:

Age (years)                             Frequency of Evaluation

65 or older                               Every 1-2 years

55-64                                       Every 1-3 years

40-54                                       Every 2-4 years

Under 40                                 5-10 years

"Eye diseases become more common as we age, but eye problems can occur at any age. By getting a comprehensive eye exam, and following through with the recommendation of your doctor, it can be the difference in saving your vision or preventing further vision loss later in life. Many patients will have no recognizable symptoms of vision loss," says Dr. Weingeist. "But it is important to identify, monitor and treat early."

While regular eye exams are extremely important, education and awareness are another part of the eye health equation. In order to provide the public with the most accurate eye health information available, EyeSmart has launched a comprehensive new website. The new site is the one stop source for everything eye-health related. Information vetted by renowned experts and backed by the extensive resources of the Academy will help to bring trusted, reliable information to the public. The site is home to dozens of interactive videos and social networking features such as Ask an Eye M.D. that make the website truly valuable to patients.

You can tour the new website and learn more about caring for your eyes at every age at www.geteyesmart.org.

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About the American Academy of Ophthalmology

AAO is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons — Eye M.D.s — with more than 29,000 members worldwide.  Eye health care is provided by the three "O's" — opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists. It is the ophthalmologist, or Eye M.D., who can treat it all — eye diseases and injuries — and perform eye surgery. Find an Eye M.D. in your area.

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