May is Healthy Vision Month, and the National Eye Institute encourages all of us to protect our vision by:
- Getting an annual, comprehensive, dilated-eye exam. In addition to spotting eye problems, a routine eye exam may reveal diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and neurological disorders.
- Maintaining a generally a healthy lifestyle that includes eating nutritious foods, keeping a healthy weight, managing chronic conditions and not smoking.
- Knowing your family history.
- Using protective eye wear.
- Wearing sunglasses.
Women are at particular risk when it comes to eye health. According to the Women’s Health Research Institute at Northwestern University, it is projected that by the year 2050 women with visual impairment will outnumber men by at least 30 percent. We can fight this trend with early detection and diagnosis of eye disease, which can reduce the likelihood of vision loss or blindness. Several eye conditions affect women more frequently than men:
- Cataracts. When a person develops cataracts, the lens of the eye becomes cloudy as a result of protein build-up, causing symptoms such as “fuzzy” or blurry vision, duller colors, glare and poor night vision. Although cataracts are most common in people 60 and older, the risk for younger people is increased if they smoke, have diabetes or have increased exposure to UV rays. When cataracts worsen, the condition requires surgical treatment. If left untreated, cataracts can lead to significant vision loss and blindness.
- Macular Degeneration. The macula, a region of the retina responsible for our central, color vision, can deteriorate and cause enough central vision loss to impair daily activities like driving, reading and face recognition. Smoking, ethnicity, and family history are all risk factors, but the primary cause of macular degeneration is living past age 80.
- Glaucoma. A leading cause of blindness, glaucoma refers to conditions that damage the optic nerve. The most common type, open-angle glaucoma, has no symptoms until it progresses to cause a loss in peripheral vision or other noticeable symptoms. Early detection is critical and can prevent vision loss.
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