Preserve Eye Health Now; Prevent Vision Loss Later

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Vision plays an important role in many aspects of daily life. From morning to night, the eyes are working hard to process information. In fact, according to the American Optometric Association's (AOA) American Eye-Q® survey, 46 percent of consumers indicate eyesight is the sense they worry most about losing. With consumer sentiment so focused on eye health, protecting the eyes and vision should be an important part of overall health care for Americans of all ages.

Age plays a major factor when caring for vision. Patients in their 30s experience very different eye and vision issues than patients in their 60s. To treat current conditions and combat future diseases, patients should take the appropriate age-related steps to help keep their vision as healthy as possible.

It's easy to incorporate steps into your daily routine to ensure healthy eyes and vision. Eating right, exercising and visiting your local eye doctor every year can help keep your eyes and vision strong. Overall, people can help their visual system age gracefully through these preventive tips.

In honor of Governor Tom Corbett declaring March as Save Your Vision Month to encourage Pennsylvania citizens to protect their vision from preventable, treatable conditions, the Pennsylvania Optometric Association (POA) offers specific tips to follow to preserve eye health and vision based on a patient's age.

20s & 30s

The majority of adults in their 20s and 30s can correct vision problems by wearing corrective lenses, either contact lenses or eyeglasses. However, that doesn't mean they don't need to worry about preserving their vision for the future.

Similar to other organs in the body, the eyes are generally healthy in people in their 20s and 30s. At this age, it's important to take proactive steps to protect eyesight and vision. For example, eating foods rich in six nutrients - antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, essential fatty acids, vitamins C and E and the mineral zinc - can boost eye health throughout life. Foods rich in these nutrients include broccoli, spinach, kale, corn, green beans, peas, oranges and tangerines.

Smoking is a bad habit that exposes the eyes to high levels of harmful chemicals and increases the risk for developing age-related macular degeneration and cataracts in the future. Finally, remember to wear sunglasses to protect against harmful UV radiation. Studies have shown that exposure to even small amounts of UV rays over time increases the chance of developing cataracts and other diseases and disorders. In fact, sunglasses are considered one of the most important anti-aging tools.

40s & 50s

People often begin to notice vision changes around age 40, with a chief complaint being difficulty seeing while reading or doing close work. This normal change in the eye's focusing ability due to age, called presbyopia, will continue to progress over time. Other vision changes often experienced by those in their 40s and 50s include, difficulty seeing far away, problems seeing in low light or at night, sensitivity to light and glare, and for women, the risk of dry eye increases after menopause. An optometrist can easily test patients for proper prescriptions, offer suggestions on how to reduce sensitivity to light and glare and prescribe various treatments to ease the symptoms of these disorders.

Adults over age 40 may be particularly at risk for developing eye and vision problems if they have chronic or systemic conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Additionally, many medications have ocular side effects, especially those for health conditions like high cholesterol, thyroid conditions, anxiety or depression and arthritis.

In addition to continuing to follow the healthy habits established earlier in life, adding an exercise regimen to one's daily routine is important to keep overall health and vision in shape. Also, patients in this age range should be knowledgeable about any eye diseases that run in their family and should discuss them with their optometrist.

60s and beyond

At this age, it is especially important for patients to be vigilant about seeing their optometrist to check for the onset of diseases like age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma. Many of these conditions have no early symptoms, developing painlessly. For many patients, the first noticeable sign of glaucoma is loss of vision. At this point the vision loss is irreversible, making it critical for patients not to wait to see their optometrist.

With approximately three million Americans diagnosed with glaucoma, 10 million with macular degeneration and more than 50 percent of the population likely to develop cataracts by age 80, the most important step to take during these "golden" years is to visit an optometrist at least once a year for a comprehensive eye health exam. Depending on family history and risk factors, the doctor may recommend checkups more than once a year.

Early detection and treatment is the best way to maintain good vision at any age. Seeing a doctor of optometry yearly will help keep patients on the path to healthy eyes and vision throughout their lives.

About the survey:
The fifth annual American Eye-Q® survey was created and commissioned in conjunction with Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates (PSB). From April 14-21, 2010, using an online methodology, PSB interviewed 1,007 Americans 18 years and older who embodied a nationally representative sample of U.S. general population. (Margin of error at 95 percent confidence level)

About the Pennsylvania Optometric Association (POA):
The Pennsylvania Optometric Association is the professional organization for over 1,250 doctors of optometry in Pennsylvania. An affiliate of the American Optometric Association, POA promotes the highest quality eye and vision care by optometrists, represents optometry to state government, provides its members with post-graduate education and membership benefits, and conducts activities in the interest of the visual welfare of the public. For more information, visit

About the American Optometric Association (AOA):
American Optometric Association doctors of optometry are highly qualified, trained doctors on the frontline of eye and vision care who examine, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of the eye. In addition to providing eye and vision care, optometrists play a major role in a patient's overall health and well-being by detecting systemic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.

Prior to optometry school, optometrists typically complete four years of undergraduate study, culminating in a bachelor's degree. Required undergraduate coursework for pre-optometry students is extensive and covers a wide variety of advanced health, science and mathematics. Optometry school consists of four years of post-graduate, doctoral study concentrating on both the eye and systemic health. In addition to their formal training, doctors of optometry must undergo annual continuing education to stay current on the latest standards of care. For more information, visit