Am I At Risk for Vision Loss?
Today we will take a look at the common risk factors that increase vision loss and some practical steps you can take to reduce that risk.
1. Early Eye Health
Risks for vision loss early in life aren’t as prevalent as those for older adults. In the United States, the most pervasive childhood vision disorders are amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (crossed eyes), and significant refractive errors like near and farsightedness. And while they definitely impede vision, these more common conditions generally do not cause a loss of sight if they are caught early.
But there are a few eye diseases that pose more significant risks, such as retinopathy of prematurity (which affects babies born premature or significantly underweight), cancers affecting the eye, or congenital defects.
For most kids, early eye health starts with early detection with vision screenings. Even if your child doesn’t have an eye disease, it is essential to protect their eyes from environmental hazards when at play. Invest in comfortable sunglasses, safety glasses, and sports goggles for their favorite activities.
2. Aging-Related Conditions
For those under forty, unless you have a comorbidity that increases your risk of a specific eye condition, the most common eye disease is refractive errors. While you may need corrective lenses, your odds of visual loss are low.
As we age into the forties and beyond, however, everyone's risk of eye disease and vision loss increases every year, with the most significant risks past age 75. The three major eye diseases in this age range are cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma.
Cataract refers to the clouding of the eye's lens; in people over 40, it is the most common cause of vision loss and the number one cause of blindness worldwide. You may notice blurred vision, double vision, excessive light sensitivity, trouble seeing at night, and viewing bright colors as yellowish or faded.
Three million Americans have glaucoma, and it is the second leading cause of blindness. It encompasses a range of conditions that cause damage to the optic nerve due to increased pressure in the eye due to poor drainage of intraocular fluids. With little to no symptoms at the onset of the disease, nearly half of the people affected do not know they have the disease.
Diabetic retinopathy occurs when high blood sugar begins to impact the blood vessels that supply the eye. These blood vessels are vital to maintaining the health and function of your eyes. High blood pressure can cause them to swell, leading to issues including leakage. Retinopathy caused by diabetes makes up 12% of new cases of blindness.
3. Reducing Your Eye Disease Risk
The potential for ocular degeneration as we age is unavoidable, but there are a number of factors that are within our control to manage. Let’s look at some accessible ways that you can lower your risk for vision loss.
- Genetics can put many people at risk of developing an eye disease, as two of the four most common eye conditions (glaucoma and macular degeneration) can be inherited. It is essential to be aware of your family history and let your eye care doctor know of this increased risk, and to ensure that you have a baseline screening completed before the age of forty.
- Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle keeps your entire body healthy, including your eyes. Diabetes, blood pressure, and high cholesterol will all put you at risk of developing eye conditions that can ultimately cause blindness.
- Just like you should be wearing sunscreen to protect your skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV) light, put on a pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes from the same risk.
- Along with all the other harmful effects of smoking on your lungs and cardiovascular system, smoking increases your risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
- Make sure to wear adequate safety gear when playing sports, on job sites, and when enjoying hobbies. Blunt injuries, irritants, and scratches can all put you at risk for eye disease later in life and even push that risk forward to earlier ages.
Most eye diseases have gradual symptoms at the start, which can make them hard to catch early enough to prevent the worst damage. The single best way to lower your risk of vision loss is to make sure you regularly have an eye exam.
With the exception of cataracts, most eye conditions can’t be cured or reversed. It is essential to have regular eye exams to minimize your risk of damage from undiagnosed eye conditions.
Schedule Your Eye Care Appointment Today
Every individual has different histories and lifestyles, making everyone's eye care needs unique. You should have an eye doctor that takes you into consideration and can give common-sense recommendations. We have been caring for patients in western North Carolina since 1989 using the latest technology and care.
We offer a wide array of services, from comprehensive eye exams, eyeglasses, contact lenses and medical eye evaluations. Our dedicated staff of optometrists is certified to diagnose, treat, and manage ocular disease.
If you are overdue for a comprehensive eye exam or think you might be developing eyesight issues, reach out to us at Asheville Vision and Wellness or set up an appointment online to see one of our skilled staff members.