May is Healthy Vision Month, and Americans agree that eyesight has a huge impact on their day-to-day lives and is one of the senses they fear losing most. However, people often do not pay attention to their eye health unless they notice a problem. Many eye diseases and conditions have no early warning signs, so a person can have a potentially blinding eye disease and not even know it.
Such is the case with diabetic eye disease. Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye problems that people with diabetes may face as a complication of the disease and includes diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and glaucoma. Diabetic retinopathy, the most common of these, is the leading cause of blindness in adults 20 to 74 years of age. According to the National Eye Institute (NEI) at NIH, 4.1 million people have diabetic eye disease and its prevalence is projected to increase to 7.2 million by 2020.
If you have diabetes, one of the most important things you can do to protect your vision is to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. In this simple procedure, an eye care professional places drops in your eyes to dilate, or widen, the pupil to allow more light to enter the eye—the same way an open door lets more light into a dark room. A comprehensive dilated eye exam can help detect eye diseases such as diabetic eye disease in its early stages. Early detection and treatment can help reduce your risk of vision loss and blindness.
We invite you to celebrate Healthy Vision Month by scheduling a comprehensive dilated eye exam or reminding a loved one to do so.
Other simple steps to keep your vision at its best include:
- Know Your Family History – Some eye diseases are hereditary. Talk with your family members about their eye health history, then talk with your eye care professional to learn what you can do to protect your vision.
- Eat Right To Protect Your Sight – Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A and C may help keep your eyes healthy. Walnuts and certain fish such as salmon and tuna are good sources of omega-3s, while eating fruits and vegetables will help you get plenty of vitamins A and C.
- Give It a Rest – Work at a computer all day long? Give your eyes a 20/20/20 break: Every 20 minutes, look about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds to reduce eye strain and fatigue.
- Let the Sun Shine – When shopping for sunglasses, look for ones that block out 99 to 100 percent of UV-A and UV-B radiation.
- Clean Hands for Clear Vision – If you wear contact lenses, always wash your hands thoroughly before inserting or removing the lenses. It’s also important to disinfect your lenses and replace them as instructed. If you get an eye infection, see your eye care professional as soon as possible!
- Quit Smoking or Never Start—Tobacco smoking has been linked to an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts and optic nerve damage, all of which can lead to vision loss.
- Do Your Research – Learn about the Medicare benefit for diabetic eye disease and glaucoma.
For more information about eye health, tips for finding an eye care professional or organizations that provide financial assistance for eye care, visit http://www.nei.nih.gov/healthyeyes . For more information about diabetes, visit http://www.diabetes.org.
Healthy Vision: Make It Last a Lifetime!