Why is a routine eye exam important?


Ethnic minorities are often at increased risk for eye disease. To help curb vision loss among at-risk communities, the American Academy of Ophthalmology is reminding Americans about race-related risk factors for eye disease during National Minority Health Month in April. Many ethnic minorities have an elevated risk for common eye diseases and conditions that rarely have noticeable symptoms, such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and cataracts.

African-Americans, Native Americans and Latino Americans are much more likely to develop diabetic retinopathy compared to Caucasians. African-Americans are three times more likely than Caucasians to go blind from glaucoma— a condition for which Latino Americans are also at an increased risk. African-Americans and Latino Americans also face a greater risk for visual impairment caused by cataracts.

Additionally, because most serious eye diseases are age-related, African-American seniors are at especially high risk for eye diseases and blindness as they age. Because of these risk factors, ophthalmologists— medical doctors specializing in the diagnosis, medical and surgical treatment of eye diseases and conditions— encourage all seniors with race-related risk factors to get a comprehensive, dilated eye exam every one to two years to detect problems early and prevent vision loss.

Older Americans of all ethnicities may qualify for eye exams and care at no out-of-pocket cost through EyeCare America, a public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Eligible seniors are matched with one of more than 6,000 volunteer ophthalmologists across the country.

“People who take care of their eyes are looking out for their own independence as they age— and getting an eye exam regularly is first step,” said Charles P. Wilkinson, M.D., chairman of EyeCare America. “Our goal is to ensure that the cost of medical care never stops someone from getting a sight-saving eye exam.”

Most eye diseases have no early symptoms, so the only way to detect them before vision is permanently damaged is through a comprehensive eye exam. The following symptoms may indicate that an eye disease has advanced: vision loss; blank spots or dark areas in your vision; blurred vision; double vision; poor night vision; faded colors; sensitivity to light; and eye pain.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, contact an ophthalmologist immediately. To see if you or a loved one age 65 and older qualifies for care through EyeCare America, visit: www.eyecareamerica.org.