March is “Save Your Vision” Month
March 1, 2017
March is “Save Your Vision” month as designated by the American Optometric Association. In the U.S., approximately 61 million people are at high risk for vision loss, but only half of those at risk have visited an eye doctor in the past year. Many types of visual impairment can be prevented by routine eye exams, and exams where the eyes are dilated are the best way to assess the overall health of the eyes.
There are four common causes of vision impairment in those over 40 in the United States: cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration. All of these conditions can be asymptomatic – you may not show any obvious indications of the condition, in other words – and the only way to know if you are affected is by having a dilated eye exam. Of these conditions, cataracts are by far the most common type of visual impairment and are estimated to impact over 24 million people in the U.S. As the population ages, the prevalence of cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration is expected to double by 2050.
“Many people think that because they see well that their eyes are healthy,” says Brianne Hobbs, O.D., Residency Director at the Midwestern University Eye Institute. “This assumption, unfortunately, is incorrect.”
Patients with developing cataracts sometimes notice glare around lights or difficulty driving at night, but often their visual acuity (the number of lines they can read on the eye chart) is not impacted until the cataracts progress further. Diabetes causes leaking of the delicate blood vessels within the retina, which can be seen by an optometrist in a dilated eye exam. Because this leaking does not affect vision unless it is severe, a dilated eye exam may be the first indication of diabetes. Glaucoma only causes symptoms when it is extremely advanced; if it is diagnosed early and treated appropriately, vision loss rarely occurs. Macular degeneration affects the central area of the retina, which is responsible for the detailed vision required to read. Patients with macular degeneration may notice difficulty reading as the first symptom, but often macular degeneration can be detected by an eye exam long before a patient ever experiences symptoms.
Because many types of visual impairment are preventable, “there is simply no substitute for a dilated eye exam,” Dr. Hobbs says.
The doctors at Midwestern University Eye Institute have the clinical expertise and access to the latest technology to help diagnose and manage cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and macular degeneration. To schedule a dilated eye exam with an optometrist in Arizona, call the Eye Institute at 623-537-6000. For more information about healthcare options in Illinois, contact the Midwestern University Multispecialty Clinic at 630-743-4500.