Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Healthy Habits: Eye Health

As we kick off 2021 (and more often than not, focus on health), here are some eye opening statistics around eye health that may be of interest to you. Diabetes and other health issues can be affected by lack of dental care. The same applies for routine vision exams and other preventive eye care measures.

Some stats:
  • Cataracts currently affect more than 24.4 million Americans over age 40.
  • By age 75, nearly 50% of all Americans will have cataracts
  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects 2.1 million Americans over age 50.
  • One in 10 (10%) Americans will have AMD by the age of 80.
  • In 2019, 9.1 million Americans had AMD.
  • AMD is more common in women than in men.
  • Diabetic retinopathy affects 7.7 million Americans aged 40 and older.
  • Roughly 3.2 million American women over the age of 50 have dry eye syndrome.
  • An estimated 1.68 million American men aged 40 and older suffer from dry eye syndrome.

You can find more eye health statistic here: https://www.allaboutvision.com/resources/all-about-vision/eye-health-statistics/. You can also learn more in this interview.

Why is it important for adults to be aware of the possibility of cataracts and AMD?
Are there certain risk factors that increase the likelihood of certain eye conditions?
It’s important for adults to be aware of the possibility of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) because parents can take steps to decrease the risk that their children will develop these vision-debilitating conditions later in life.

For example, myopia (nearsightedness) is a risk factor for cataracts and glaucoma. Nearsightedness begins in childhood, and the more nearsighted children become, the greater their risk for these problems as they age. (This is true even if they get their myopia permanently corrected in adulthood with LASIK or other vision surgery).

Also, the earlier a child becomes nearsighted, the greater the risk he/she will develop a high degree of myopia (“high myopia”), which increases the risk of a potentially blinding condition called retinal detachment.

More about childhood myopia, high myopia, risks, and what can be done to control it here:

More about retinal detachment here: https://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/retinadetach.htm

Another risk factor in childhood for serious eye and vision problems later in life is exposure to blue light. This high-energy visible light has nearly the same energy as some ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Long-term exposure to blue light throughout a person’s lifetime may be damaging to the eyes (just as UV exposure is recognized as a risk factor for eye and skin damage).

Also, laboratory studies have shown that high levels of blue light exposure can induce damage to the light-sensitive cells in the retina of the eye that mimics the effects of AMD, which (unlike cataracts) there currently is no surgical “cure" for.

Blue light is present in sunlight, but it also is emitted by artificial sources of radiation — specifically, the screens of computers, phones and other digital devices. Though more research is needed to better understand the added risk of eye damage from blue light exposure from digital devices on the eyes of children over time, many eye doctors and researchers recommend parents should be cautious about the amount of time young children spend staring at the screens of these devices throughout the day — especially because the eyes of young children don’t have the same light-filtering capability as the eyes of adults.

(Limiting “screen time” for young children also may be beneficial to reduce the risk of myopia progression.)

More about blue light (and protective “blue light glasses” to filter high-energy visible light from reaching the eyes) here:

How do routine eye exams figure into overall health, even for people who don't wear prescription glasses or contacts?
Annual eye exams are an ESSENTIAL component of the health care of both children and adults — regardless whether or not a person has vision problems that require prescription glasses of contact lenses.

In addition to being the only way to detect glaucoma (a serious eye disease that causes no symptoms or noticeable vision problems until irreversible vision loss has already occurred) so treatment can begin before vision loss occurs, eye exams can reveal the first signs of diabetes, high blood pressure, autoimmune disorders, thyroid diseases and certain types of cancers, so these serious conditions can then be addressed by medical specialists.

Also, during comprehensive eye exams for children, an eye doctor can detect eye movement and alignment problems, binocular vision (eye teaming) problems, and color vision problems that may interfere with a child’s performance in school or in sports and other activities.

More about digital eye strain.

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