One of the best things people can do for their overall health is to receive regular eye exams, even if they think their vision is perfectly fine.
“Eye exams are not just about needing glasses or contacts – they’re used for detecting and preventing eye diseases,” said Dr. Larissa Brigham, OD. “Serious eye problems can develop slowly and are not always apparent until damage has already been done.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that leading causes of vision loss are Age-related Macular Degeneration, Cataracts, Diabetic Retinopathy, and Glaucoma.
“These conditions often have no early symptoms, but they lead to blindness if caught too late,” Dr. Brigham said.
Age-related Macular Degeneration is estimated to affect over 1.8 Americans over age 40.
This condition impacts the macula, in the central part of the retina. This makes seeing straight ahead clearly either difficult or impossible. There are no early symptoms.
Prevention for Age-related Macular Degeneration is centered around eye exams, avoiding smoking, exercising, maintaining a healthy blood pressure and cholesterol, and healthy foods including leafy green vegetables and fish.
Cataracts is clouding of the lens of an eye (or eyes) and is the leading cause of blindness worldwide.
Cataracts can occur at any age, and CDC estimates that 20.5 million Americans over age 40 have cataracts in one or both eyes. More than 50% of people ages 80 and up currently have cataracts, or have had cataracts surgery.
There are no early symptoms for cataracts. Later in cataract development, individuals may experience blurry vision, faded colors, sensitivity to light, trouble with driving at night, or seeing in double vision.
Prevention for cataracts is centered around regular eye exams, avoiding smoking, wearing sunglasses and eating healthy fruits and vegetables that promote eye health.
Diabetic Retinopathy occurs due from complications of diabetes, and is the leading cause of blindness among adults in the United States.
This condition causes damage to the blood vessels located inside tissue behind the retina.
Early diagnosis and treatment can help to reduce vision loss, but many people are diagnosed too late for treatment. No symptoms are present in early stages. In later stages individuals sometimes experience blurry vision or “floating spots” in the field of vision.
Diabetic Retinopathy can also cause scarring, which may cause retinal detachment.
“Any type of diabetes (Type 1, Type 2, or gestational) can lead to diabetic retinopathy,” Dr. Brigham said.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can damage the optic nerve.
Complications of glaucoma occur when fluid pressure in the eyes begins to increase. Many people with glaucoma don’t know they have it until noticing a loss of peripheral vision.
At SSM Health, our teams specialize in diagnosing and treating all types of eye conditions, including the four mentioned above.
To learn more about setting up a regular eye care routine, speak with your primary care provider or schedule an appointment at a SSM Health eye care location near you today.