ST. LOUIS, Oct. 9 Too many Americans are not paying enoughattention to their eyesight and overall eye health, according to a new surveyby the American Optometric Association (AOA).
The AOA's 2008 American Eye-Q(R) survey, which assesses public knowledgeand understanding of a wide range of issues related to eye and visual health,showed that most Americans -- 81 percent of respondents -- wear contactlenses, eyeglasses or both. At the same time, however, 26 percent have notvisited an eye doctor or eye care specialist within the past two years, asrecommended by the AOA.
Since many eye and vision problems have no obvious signs or symptoms,people often are unaware that a problem exists. Early diagnosis and treatmentof eye and vision problems are important to maintain good vision and eyehealth and, when possible, prevent vision loss.
"Every adult should have a comprehensive eye exam at least every twoyears, but it's even more important for people who already use correctivelenses," said Dr. James Kirchner, optometrist and AOA's Eye Health Expert."Too often we see people who have put off eye exams because they assume theyjust need a different lens prescription, when they really have a more seriousproblem. With eye diseases and disorders, as with most health issues, earlydetection and treatment are often the keys to avoiding permanent problems."
Most Americans are unaware that comprehensive eye exams can detect morethan just vision problems. Sixty-two percent didn't know that signs ofdiabetes may be detected by an optometrist. Other diseases and conditionsthat respondents did not realize may be detected through a comprehensive eyeexam include hypertension (not recognized by 71 percent), brain tumors (75percent), cancer (78 percent), cardiovascular diseases (80 percent) andmultiple sclerosis (90 percent).
Baby boomers need to pay particular attention to eye problems. TheAmerican Optometric Association recommends annual eye examinations foreveryone over age 60.
It's a fact of life that vision changes as you age, and baby boomers --Americans born between 1946 and 1964 -- are at the stage when vision problemsoften begin. But these changes don't have to compromise a person's lifestyle.
According to the American Eye-Q(R) survey, 72 percent of respondents age55 and older began experiencing changes in vision between the ages of 40 and45. Their top concerns about the effects of vision problems include not beingable to live independently, cited by 48 percent; losing the ability to drive,23 percent; and being unable to read, 21 percent.
Health problems in other parts of the body can affect vision as well.Individuals with diabetes or hypertension (high blood pressure), or peopletaking certain medications that have eye-related side effects, are at greaterrisk for developing vision problems.
Therefore, regular comprehensive eye exams are especially important laterin life, when more people develop these types of chronic conditions and begintaking medications more frequently. Unfortunately, some people over 60experience loss of sight beyond the normal, age-related vision changes. Thegood news is that more than half of survey respondents were aware of many ofthe risks of age-related eye diseases. The bad news is that the surveyrevealed limited understanding of the fact that without treatment, some eyediseases result in blindness. Macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabeticretinopathy are among the age-related eye health conditions that can lead topermanent vision loss.
Rehabilitative services can give people with conditions such as low visionthe assistance and resources needed to regain their independence and to helppreserve remaining vision. A doctor of optometry can develop a rehabilitationprogram to help people with low vision live and work more effectively,efficiently and safely. Treatment options commonly include spectacle-mountedmagnifiers, miniature hand-held or spectacle-mounted telescopes, and videomagnification devices that enlarge reading materials on a video displaymonitor.
The American Eye-Q(R) survey revealed how respondents age 55 and older areaddressing their age-related vision problems. More than half, or 60 percent,said they schedule frequent eye exams; 28 percent said they limit their nightdriving; 29 percent are increasing the nutrients necessary for healthy eyes;and 9 percent purchase books and other materials in large print.
Common Misconceptions and Other Findings
As in past Eye-Q(R) surveys, Americans continue to value their ability tosee. Most respondents indicated that they worry about losing their vision (38percent) more than their memory (31 percent), their ability to walk (14percent) or their hair (8 percent).
Many respondents also held misconceptions about behaviors that can damagethe eyes. For example, 71 percent incorrectly believe that reading under dimlight can cause eye damage. Other misunderstandings about the causes of eyedamage included sitting too close to the television, cited by 66 percent; andrubbing the eyes. While these behaviors can cause eye strain, they don'tcause physical damage to the eye or eye sight.
Nutrition is one promising means of protecting the eyes. However,respondents are unaware of what to eat to help their eyes. For example, only2 percent of respondents correctly chose spinach as the best food for one'seye health. Almost half, or 48 percent, believe the misconception thatcarrots are best for their eye health. Lutein and zeaxanthin, found in darkgreen leafy vegetables including spinach, help to protect against cataractsand age-related macular degeneration.
Americans consider their eyes and eyesight important for reasons beyondhealth and vision. The survey indicated that 32 percent of respondents reportthey receive more compliments on their eyes than other features, and 42percent said they consider color to be their eyes' best attribute.
For additional information on eye health, please visit www.aoa.org.
About the survey:
The third annual American Eye-Q(R) survey was created and commissioned inconjunction with Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates (PSB). From May 17-19,2008, using an online methodology, PSB interviewed 1,001 Americans 18 yearsand older who embodied a nationally representative sample of U.S. generalpopulation. (Margin of error at 95 percent confidence level.)
About the American Optometric Association (AOA):
The American Optometric Association represents approximately 36,000doctors of optometry, optometry students and paraoptometric assistants andtechnicians. Optometrists serve patients in nearly 6,500 communities acrossthe country, and in 3,500 of those communities are the only eye doctors.Doctors of optometry provide two-thirds of all primary eye care in the UnitedStates.
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 providingeye and vision care, optometrists play a major role in a patient's overallhealth and well-being by detecting systemic diseases such as diabetes andhypertension.
Prior to optometry school, optometrists typically complete four years ofundergraduate study, culminating in a bachelor's degree. Requiredundergraduate coursework for pre-optometry students is extensive and covers awide variety of advanced health, science and mathematics. Optometry schoolconsists of four years of post-graduate, doctoral study concentrating on boththe eye and systemic health. In addition to their formal training, doctors ofoptometry must undergo annual continuing education to stay current on thelatest standards of care. For more information, visit www.aoa.org.To view the Multimedia News Release, go to:http://www.prnewswire.com/mnr/aoa/34986/
SOURCE American Optometric Association (AOA)