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April 4, 2006 > Protecting and Saving Your Vision

Protecting and Saving Your Vision

Aging is Major Factor in Vision Loss

Protecting your eyes and getting regular checkups as you age will help save your vision. Every year at this time, the American Optometric Association reminds Americans of all ages about how important regular eye examinations are for maintaining healthy vision and raising awareness about the need for regular eye exams.

The eye is a delicate organ that is susceptible to disease and other problems, especially as we age. "With the aging population, the number of Americans with major eye diseases is increasing and vision loss is becoming a serious health problem," said Dr. Fang Tan, a Washington Hospital ophthalmologist.

The most common eye diseases include cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), affecting nearly 25 million people in this country. They can all lead to vision loss and blindness.

"The biggest risk factor for all three is age," Tan said. "Aging is a big issue for your eyes."

According to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation, AMD is the number one cause of vision loss and legal blindness in adults over age 55. The organization estimates that as baby boomers advance into their 50s and 60s, there will be a steep increase in AMD, already the fastest-growing type of macular degeneration.

Macular degeneration is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina, the inside back layer of the eye that records the images we see and sends them to the brain. It destroys the straight-ahead central vision necessary for reading, driving, identifying faces, watching television, doing detailed work, safely navigating stairs and performing other daily tasks needed for independent living.

"The prognosis for macular degeneration is not good," Tan said. "There is no cure so far, although there are several treatment options."

A cataract is the clouding of the eye's lens. Vision may become blurry or dim because light can't properly pass through the lens to the retina.

Glaucoma is the term for a group of diseases that can destroy the optic nerve, which sends information from your eye to your brain. While symptoms occur so gradually it can go undetected, the first sign of glaucoma is usually the loss of peripheral or side vision.
Watch for Signs of Vision Loss

Most of us experience some loss of vision as we age. We may discover as we get older we need more light to see or that it gets more difficult to focus on words or object that are near.

"If you have any problems with your vision or eyes, you should see an eye doctor," Tan said. "Even if it means you just need glasses, you should make sure your eyes are working properly, especially as you age."

The American Optometric Association, sponsor of Save Your Vision Month, recommends seeing an eye doctor if any of the following describe you:


  • Someone with diabetes, hypertension, or any other systemic or chronic disease.
  • At risk for certain systemic or eye diseases because of family history or other factors.
  • Having more difficulty reading smaller type such as in books and newspapers.
  • Experiencing frequent headaches after working on a computer.
  • Rubbing your eyes frequently or having tired or burning eyes.
  • Losing track of people or objects in your side vision.
  • Having difficulty driving at night.
  • Experiencing frequent near misses, accidents, or difficulty parking while driving.
  • Experiencing difficulty with eye-hand-body coordination.
  • Having trouble judging distances between you and other objects.

Your vision and eye health need to be protected and monitored, especially as you age. Even if none of the above applied, you still need to think about your eyes because vision problems don't always start with symptoms. With diseases like AMD and glaucoma, there is already permanent vision loss by the time symptoms occur.

"Everyone over the age of 65 should have their eyes checked annually," Tan said.

For more information about protecting your vision, visit www.aoa.org or www.aao.org.

Washington Township Health Care District has been committed to serving District residents since it was formed in 1948. For more information about Washington Hospital and its programs and services, visit www.whhs.com.
 
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