Ophthalmologists Recommend a Check to Establish a Baseline of Eye Health

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends an eye disease screening for all aging adults.

The Academy now recommends that adults with no signs or risk factors for eye disease get a baseline eye disease screening at age 40 — the time when early signs of disease and changes in vision may start to occur. Based on the results of the initial screening, an ophthalmologist will prescribe the necessary intervals for follow-up exams.

For individuals at any age with symptoms of or at risk for eye disease, such as those with a family history of eye disease, diabetes or high blood pressure, the Academy recommends that individuals see their ophthalmologist to determine how frequently their eyes should be examined.

The recommendation does not replace regular visits to the ophthalmologist to treat ongoing disease or injuries, or for vision examinations for eye glasses or contact lenses. Much like mammograms at 40 or colon screenings at 50, this eye disease screening is a reminder to adults as they age that they need to maintain their eye health.

Why the Recommendation?

A baseline evaluation is important because it may detect eye diseases common in adults aged 40 and older. The evaluation creates greater opportunity for early treatment and preservation of vision.

A thorough ophthalmologic evaluation can uncover common abnormalities of the visual system and related structures, as well as less common but extremely serious ones, such as ocular tumors. This evaluation can also uncover evidence of many forms of systemic disease that affect the eyes, like hypertension and diabetes. With appropriate intervention, potentially blinding diseases such as glaucoma, cataract and diabetic retinopathy often have a favorable outcome.

Several common eye diseases can impact people 40 and older without them knowing there is any problem with their eyes.

For example:

In 2000, it was estimated that 2.22 million people had primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), a number that will increase to 3.36 million in 2020. About half of those with POAG were unaware that they had the disease at the time the diagnosis was made, according to one estimate. Early detection and treatment of POAG may prevent or delay loss of vision, but, unfortunately, this disease is often without symptoms until vision loss is extensive.

Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness and often affects working aged adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in 2005 that there were a total of 20.8 million in the population (7%) with diabetes, of which 6.2 million were undiagnosed. In 2000, about 4.1 million U.S. adults 40 years and older had diabetic retinopathy, or about two out of every five people with diabetes mellitus. Although effective treatment for reducing the risk of blinding diabetic retinopathy is available, many patients with diabetes do not receive evaluation and treatment in time to minimize the risk of vision loss.

If you are age 40 or older and have not had a recent eye disease screening, get EyeSmart and schedule a screening today. It is an essential step toward preserving your vision and keeping your eyes healthy.

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