The Importance Of Preventive Eye Care
By Jeffrey B. Minkovitz, M.D.
Of all the human senses, vision is often named as the most important and precious – that which would be missed most if lost. According to the CDC, approximately 11 million Americans over the age of 12 could improve their vision through proper refractive correction, and over 3 million (3%) over 40 are either legally blind or have low vision. People often seek eye care if their eyes are red or painful, or if vision becomes blurry. But routine eye examinations are important even if eyes and vision are fine – because many blinding eye diseases have few or no warning signs until vision loss is severe and possibly irreversible.
The most common cause of blindness in the United States is diabetic eye disease. In the early stages, when most easily treated, diabetic eye disease has no symptoms. Diabetics should have a comprehensive, dilated eye examination at least once a year to prevent serious complications. Maintaining good blood sugar control is also important to the health of the eyes.
The second most common cause of blindness in the US is glaucoma. Vision loss from glaucoma often goes undetected until the disease is advanced, and once vision is lost, it can never be regained. Also, progression of more advanced glaucoma is more difficult to arrest. Glaucoma is more common in older adults, but it can occur even in the young. Regular examinations include screening to detect glaucoma.
The most common cause of blindness among Americans over age 50 is age-related macular degeneration. While early macular degeneration has no cure, early detection, vitamins and a healthy diet can help to avoid progression. In cases which do progress, prompt intervention can improve outcomes.
Worldwide, cataracts are by far the most common cause of blindness. Fortunately, this condition is reversible, and treatment is widely available in developed countries. Technical advances have made surgery more successful than ever before.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology has revised its recommendations for routine eye examinations, stating children should have routine screening and vision testing during regular pediatric visits, with referral to a specialist in the event of a finding or a family history or other risk factor. Young adults should have a baseline evaluation, and then periodic routine visits. “The frequency of ocular examinations should depend on the individual’s age, race, past ocular history, medical history, family history of eye disease, and the types of symptoms or ocular findings encountered.” Your eye care professional should recommend an appropriate interval.
In addition to periodic screening examinations, prevention is important for maintaining good ocular health. Always wear eye protection when working with power tools or dangerous chemicals, or when playing sports posing a risk of eye injury. Fireworks and paintball injuries are also common causes of vision loss. Ultraviolet protection (glasses or sunglasses) can help to prevent cataracts, macular degeneration and ocular tumors. A diet healthy in fish and green vegetables can reduce the risk of macular degeneration. Finally, good blood pressure and blood sugar control, and smoking cessation helps avoid eye disease in addition to other health benefits.
While great advances have been made in ophthalmic treatments including cataract surgery and macular degeneration therapy, prevention and early detection can help to ensure the best possible vision for a lifetime.
Jeffrey Minkovitz, MD is an ophthalmologist with Eye Physicians and Surgeons in Wilmington, Delaware. Dr. Minkovitz specializes in cataract and refractive surgery, and is one of only a few Delaware surgeons specially trained in corneal transplantation. He completed a cornea and refractive surgery fellowship at the renowned Wilmer Eye Institute of Johns Hopkins. Previously, he graduated magna cum-laude from Harvard, earned his medical degree from the University of Massachusetts, completed internship at Harvard’s Mt. Auburn Hospital, and served his ophthalmology residency at Washington University.
Dr. Minkovitz participated in the early research on Excimer Laser refractive surgery, and has offered this procedure to Delawareans since FDA approval in 1996, before Delaware had its own laser. These early pioneering individuals travelled to Wilmer Institute with Dr. Minkovitz, where he maintained his teaching and clinical appointment. In addition to introducing laser vision correction to Delaware, he also introduced NearVision CK to eliminate reading glasses, DSAEK (a newer, less invasive type of corneal transplant) and most recently the newest advance: laser cataract surgery.
Dr. Minkovitz is a co-founder of the Center for Advanced Surgical Arts and serves on its medical advisory board. He is also on active staff at Christiana Care. While on staff of Wilmer at Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Minkovitz received the Outstanding Teacher award. He was also named Top Doc in ophthalmology by Delaware Today Magazine six consecutive years, and has been an invited instructor at American Academy of Ophthalmology Annual Meetings.
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It finally occurred to me what has been missing during the last 2 days. Since Richard’s surgery, he isn’t complaining about his inability to read something on the fly without searching for his glasses. He wired 6 recessed lights (NO GLASSES), he read the Sunday paper sections A & B and menus (NO GLASSES), and is using the computer (NO GLASSES). I suppose for Richard, needing to look for glasses when he wanted to see something, has been the hardest adjustment of becoming older. His dependence was so gradual that I never related to why he would get so angry over needing them. My house has been quieter. I now have 2 less things to do everyday: find the glasses and make sure they were clean!