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By Joseph R. Cunningham, M.D.
One of the best ways to maintain your eye health is to have them examined annually. Even if you have 20/20 vision, you still need to go in for a regular check-up, as many common eye diseases may go unnoticed with little or no warning signs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading causes of blindness and vision loss in the U.S. are age-related eye diseases, including macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma. Age-related macular degeneration harms the center of the eye and reduces the ability to read, write, watch TV and drive. Cataracts cloud parts of the eye and are highly treatable with surgery. There are many different types of glaucoma, which causes vision loss by damaging the optic nerve in the back of the eye. Through a variety of screenings, an eye doctor can help detect eye diseases earlier, when they’re most treatable.
In addition to age-related diseases, being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy can cause serious vision loss and blindness as high blood sugar levels harm eye blood vessels over time. Most blindness caused by diabetes is preventable, so be sure to talk to your doctor about how to manage your blood sugar.
Beyond annual visits to your eye doctor, there are additional preventive steps you can take to protect your vision. A healthy diet—especially one rich in antioxidants found in broccoli, collard greens and spinach—has been linked with decreased risk for age-related eye diseases. Many eye conditions are hereditary, so it’s important to ask family members about their eye health history to determine if you’re at higher risk. Finally, protect your vision from harmful UV rays by wearing sunglasses; be sure to choose a pair that blocks 99-100% of both UVA and UVB rays.
The adage is true: you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Take steps today to get the eye care you need to prevent vision loss and blindness before it’s too late.
Joseph R. Cunningham, M.D. is the president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma, a Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company.
(For more Office Visit columns by Dr. Cunningham, visit The Journal Record.)
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