(BPT) - Why would anyone put the health of their eyes at risk?
The answer is unclear, since blindness is among the most common human fears. But many people apparently don’t prioritize eye care; in fact, of 61 million U.S. adults at risk of serious vision loss, only half see an eye doctor annually, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Further, shifting demographics are pressing the issue as the number of blind or visually impaired U.S. residents is set to double by 2030.
Here's a look at five common risks that could be compromising your family’s eye health:
- “What checkup? My eyes feel fine.” A regular eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist brings peace of mind in ensuring your vision is fine and you’re not subject to one of many eye diseases without immediate symptoms. In a recent CDC study, nevertheless, 35 percent of adults 40 and older with moderate-to-severe visual impairment had skipped such exams in the past year because they found them unnecessary. Early treatment is crucial to common diseases such as cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration; that said, 80 percent of all visual impairment can be prevented or cured.
- “My eyes sting, but it’s probably nothing.” Time is of the essence when diagnosing eye ailments. Red flags include redness, burning, blurred vision or pain, but even more minor issues should be addressed immediately. "So many things that go wrong in the eye are easily correctable at first, but the longer it goes on, the harder it is to treat," warns professor of ophthalmology Richard Shugarman in WomensHealthMag.com.
- “I can’t see an optometrist because I have no insurance.” In the CDC study, 40 percent of the vision-impaired respondents cited that as their reason for neglecting check-ups. But a lack of employer-sponsored eye care insurance doesn’t mean you can’t save money on exams, glasses and contacts with an affordable policy from an independent company like VSP Direct.
- “My kids seem to see OK.” In fact, some 19 million children worldwide younger than 15 are visually impaired, 12 million due to easily diagnosed and corrected refractive errors. The CDC reports only 15 percent of preschool children receive eye exams and 22 percent receive vision testing, with amblyopia the most common cause of vision loss in youth. “Uncorrected vision problems can impair child development, interfere with learning and even lead to permanent vision loss,” advises a report this year by the National Center for Children’s Vision & Eye Health. “Early detection and treatment are critical.”
- “I can still see out of my contact lenses.” Each year about a million people nationwide suffer from eye infections requiring doctor or hospital assistance, many related to contact use. Common issues include lack of proper cleaning; use of inactive lens solution; infrequent lens replacement or long-term wearing of lenses not meant for such use. "I've personally seen permanent scarring and loss of vision from wearing contacts too long," Shugarman notes.
In short, the eye health of your family is nothing to mess around with. Don’t let it fall by the wayside due to a lack of information.
“You might think your vision is fine or that your eyes are healthy,” advises the government-sponsored National Eye Institute. “But visiting your eye care professional for a comprehensive dilated eye exam is the only way to really be sure.”
Learn more about vision insurance that can help you with your eye care needs.