Don't take your eyes for granted

Published On: Dec 04 2012 10:49:56 AM CST   Updated On: Dec 18 2012 02:23:22 PM CST

By Pure Matters

Imagine what life would be like if you couldn't see well. Reading might be out. Watching a movie could be tough. Focusing on the face of a loved one could drive you to tears.

The number of people losing their vision is growing, yet experts say much of this vision loss could be prevented.

"We can intervene best when we identify a problem in the early stages," says Roy S. Rubinfeld, M.D., a clinical correspondent for the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). He warns against putting off regular eye exams because your eyes feel fine or you don't wear glasses or contact lenses. Signs of some eye diseases, such as glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), are present before you might notice symptoms.

Growing number

The National Eye Institute says more than 3.3 million Americans ages 40 and older have blindness or low vision. The institute projects that figure will increase markedly by the year 2020. The percentage of people more than 60 years old who suffer vision loss is growing fast, too.

"At 60, everyone should have an annual eye exam, even if you're seeing very well," Dr. Rubinfeld says.

Many diseases cause vision loss as we age, but AMD is the Western world's top cause of blindness. Leading to loss of your central vision, it may cause dark spots in your sight, make straight lines appear wavy, or cause text to seem blurry. AMD, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and dry eye syndrome can all rob you of sight.

It's best to see your eye doctor before trouble starts. But these signs should prompt a visit at once:

Save aging eyes

Dr. Rubinfeld offers these recommendations: