Posted Jan. 24, 2008 – Finding time in your busy schedule to get going on those well-intentioned resolutions is often challenging. But don’t underestimate the importance of those doctor visits – and, more specifically, visits to your eye doctor, says the Optometric Association.
With nearly two-thirds of adults do not receive regular, comprehensive eye exams, millions of Americans are not only putting their vision at risk, but also their overall health, the association says.
Only 32 percent of adults who do not wear glasses or contacts, have seen a doctor of optometry in the past two years, according to the association’s annual American Eye-Q survey.
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Getting an eye exam is one of the best ways to detect disease such as diabetes, which affects African Americans twice as much as others ethnic groups, often has no symptoms but can leave you vulnerable to glaucoma.
“Optometrists can serve as the first line of detection for diabetes, since the eye is the only place on the body that blood vessels can be seen without having to look through the skin,” said Dr. Ed Marshall, the association’s diabetes eye care expert and Indiana University vice president of optometry.
While glaucoma symptoms vary among Black populations in different international regions, glaucoma clearly affects those of African heritage more, according to the Glaucoma Research Association.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that presents no obvious symptoms in its victims in the early stages, but can eventually lead to total blindness. It is estimated that half of the people affected by glaucoma may not know they have it. On average, it begins 10 years earlier in African Americans than in Caucasians.
Glaucoma causes damage to the optic nerve. The optic nerve is responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain, creating the ability to see. With glaucoma, that nerve is damaged, causing irreversible vision loss.
Glaucoma occurs about five times more often in African Americans, and blindness from glaucoma is about six times more common. In addition, African Americans are 15 times more likely to be blinded by glaucoma than Caucasians.
To better protect yourself, experts urges you to have dilated eye exams each year, particularly if you have a family history of diabetes or otherwise are at risk.
More on glaucoma can be found at the Glaucoma Research Association’s Web site. Also, for more help in understanding how to care for your eyes, check out Vital Signs as well as the Web sites of the American Optometric Association Web site and Minority Nurses Association.