Eye Health Guide

They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. We don't know if that's true, but what we do know that having perfectly healthy eyes—excellent vision and clear eyes, free of pain or other symptoms—are crucial to your health and wellbeing. The good news is that it's easy to learn more about eye problems, symptoms, and the treatments that will keep you in tip-top shape.

One good idea? Visit an optometrist or an ophthalmologist for regular comprehensive eye exams. All too often people don't think about their eyes, or the need to take care of them, until they have pink eye symptoms, vision problems, pain, or worse.  But even if you don’t' have dry eye symtoms or eyes that are red, painful, itchy, or otherwise causing problems, you may still need your doctor's help. About 11 million Americans over the age of 12 need a vision correction due to refractive errors,  which are distortions in the shape of the eyeball that can affect vision. Some of the most common are myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), astigmatism (distorted vision), and presbyopia (the inability for the eye to focus on objects up close). Many of these eye conditions can be corrected with prescription eyeglasses or contacts.

Other frequent eye health problems in the United States are allergies or infections, like pink eye and styes (painful, inflamed bumps that appear on your lids. But some of the conditions most likely to damage your vision don’t have any symptoms during the early stages. For example, glaucoma  is pain-free, but can permanently damage eyesight if left untreated because it harms the optic nerve in the eye, causing vision loss and blindness. Other conditions that can affect your eye health often appear later in life. For example, an estimated 1.8 million people over the age of 40 have age-related macular degeneration (AMD), an eye disorder that’s characterized by vision loss; it’s also the leading cause of permanent vision trouble among people over the age of 65. Another condition is cataracts, a clouding of the eye lens that’s the leading cause of blindness worldwide. Cataracts affect an estimated 20.5 million people over the age of 40, though they can occur in people of any age (including newborn babies).

Whatever the issue you are having, certain eye symptoms require a trip to the eye doctor right away—these include eye pain, double vision, “floaters” (or tiny dots that seem like they’re floating before your eyes), “halos” around light, and flashes of light. And people who have diabetes may be at a risk for an eye health condition called diabetic retinopathy (DR), a disease that results in damage to the blood vessels in the retina. (Experts recommend that people with diabetes have a dilated eye exam every year.)

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