Her optometrist immediately recognized the signs of macular degeneration, a disease that causes painless and irreversible vision loss. This was a devastating diagnosis, particularly because the woman’s vision loss likely could have been prevented, or at the very least delayed, with an earlier diagnosis. An eye exam just one year earlier could have uncovered the problem, allowing for treatment to begin.
Unfortunately, this happens all the time.
The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness estimates that 285 million people worldwide are visually impaired. Shockingly, an overwhelming 80 per cent of those cases could have been prevented or treated.
Those numbers could be drastically reduced if individuals followed a few basic steps:
1. First, living a healthy and active lifestyle goes a long way toward minimizing the chances of losing vision. Not smoking, exercising regularly, eating a healthy and balanced diet, and wearing UV-protective sunglasses are all actions that can help preserve vision.
2. Second, it’s important to visit a doctor of optometry regularly for comprehensive eye exams. This could not only save your sight – it could also help save your life. Along with symptomless eye diseases, many underlying health conditions are often first detected through an eye exam, ranging from diabetes and high blood pressure to certain forms of cancer.
3. Third, be sure that you are getting a comprehensive eye exam performed by an optometrist, rather than a basic vision or sight test. Vision and sight tests are limited and can’t be used to diagnose a health or vision problem. In fact, studies have shown that 43 per cent of children with vision problems are able to pass vision screening tests performed in schools.
The reality is most people only book an eye exam when their vision deteriorates. Good vision does not necessarily equate to healthy eyes, because many problems show no symptoms at all. The woman with macular degeneration waited until it was too late to visit an optometrist. Make regular comprehensive eye exams a priority and protect one of your greatest assets – your sight.