Eye Tests Important To Long-Term Vision Health

CHRISTINA IANZITO
Our eyes provide us with a window on the world, but that window gets a little foggy and fragile as we age. Close-up vision blurs, and cataracts lie ahead for many. Tear ducts function less well, and eyes can get dry and inflamed.
Worse, macular degeneration and glaucoma can pose serious threats to vision, making reading difficult and jeopardizing independent living. Blindness is among the public’s top health fears, according to the National Association for Eye and Vision Research, an advocacy organization, consistently up there with cancer and paralysis in polls of health concerns, according to the American Foundation for the Blind, another advocacy group.
Test Crucial To Eye Health
Regular eye tests are crucial to long-term eye care.
As baby boomers age, more people will be confronted with vision problems. Among Americans older than 40, there are an estimated 41 million cases of blindness, low vision or age-related eye disease, according to the patient advocacy organization Prevent Blindness, which predicts that this number will grow to 64 million by 2032.
So what can you do to keep your eyes working? While there’s no way to prevent presbyopia — the fuzzy close-up vision that requires reading glasses — doctors say you can do a few things to lower your risk for — or at least slow the progression of — other age-related problems.
Cataracts
By the time they’re 80, more than half of all Americans have had cataracts, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “It’s a normal part of the aging process, like getting gray hair,” says Melanie Buttross, an ophthalmologist. As time passes, the eye’s lens becomes more opaque and dense, eventually causing blurry vision. This condition is called a cataract.
Just as some people go gray early, some get cataracts early. Opthalmologist Daniel Pluznik says he has “a fair number of patients in their 40s” with cataracts. “The more nearsighted you are, the younger you tend to develop them,” he explains. The risk doesn’t appear to run in families
At first the blur can be counteracted with changes in prescription, but if it interferes with daily activities, doctors may recommend surgery — a generally safe, extremely common procedure that often takes less than a half-hour. The surgeon removes the cataract, then inserts a clear artificial lens. The lens can be customized to correct vision. Afterward many patients see better than they have in years.
Glaucoma
Would that there were such a happy-ending fix for glaucoma, a condition involving damage to the optic nerve, whose early stages can be detected only through an eye exam. It is diagnosed by evaluating the optic nerve and measuring the pressure of the fluid in the eye; high pressure can harm the optic nerve.
Prevent Blindness estimates that more than 2.7 million Americans age 40 and older have glaucoma. Most at risk are African Americans, Mexican Americans, smokers, diabetics and people who are severely nearsighted or have a family history of glaucoma.
There is no way to prevent glaucoma — or to restore the vision loss it causes — but its progression can be halted with early intervention. That requires regular eye exams. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that adults without the risk factors mentioned above have a baseline exam at age 40, then evaluations every two to four years until 55. From that point on, they should be checked every one to three years, and one to two years once they’re 65. Those at risk for glaucoma and other eye diseases should be seen more frequently…….
Read More: http://www.courant.com/hartford-magazine/healthy-living/hc-health-vision-care-story.html
Source:  Hartford Courant

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