More Americans fear losing their eyesight than anything else, including losing a limb, memory, hearing or speech.
“Every segment of the population has major concerns about the impact of eye disorders on quality of life,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America , which conducted the poll. “Individuals realize the importance of good eye health in maintaining productive lives and fear its loss.”
You can keep your eyes in good health with annual exams from an eye doctor , who will not only check your sight but also look for problems.
Here are three reasons to get your vision checked this year and every year:
Your prescription may be wrong
No matter your age, vision can change. If you’re 40 or younger, your vision might be stable, but daily activities that include looking at screens and reading can cause eyestrain. Frequent headaches or squinting are a sign you’re compensating for an outdated prescription or even need glasses or contacts for the first time. Additionally, eyestrain could be a symptom of a more serious condition, such as glaucoma.
After 40, it’s normal to experience blurred vision when looking at objects up close. This is called presbyopia, and it affects more than a billion people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization .
“You can't escape presbyopia, even if you've never had a vision problem before,” All About Vision says. “Even people who are nearsighted will notice that their near vision blurs when they wear their usual eyeglasses or contact lenses to correct distance vision.”
Kids, too, need regular eye exams, starting in infancy and continuing into their teens. Visions problems are often tied to problems at school, and children’s vision may be permanently limited if not treated young, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology .
An eye doctor will find diseases
Eye doctors can see signs of many diseases or other problems. For example, cataracts, which cloud eyes, affect more than half of Americans by age 80, according to the National Eye Institute . Surgery to remove them is “one of the safest and most effective types of surgery” and almost always leads to better vision, the NEI says.
Another issue, glaucoma, damages the optic nerve and diminishes vision. People with one of the most common types, open-angle glaucoma, often don’t notice the disease because it develops slowly, and vision doesn’t change until glaucoma cannot be reversed.
“Because open-angle glaucoma has few warning signs or symptoms before damage has occurred, it is important to see a doctor for regular eye examinations,” the Glaucoma Research Foundation says. “If glaucoma is detected during an eye exam, your eye doctor can prescribe a preventative treatment to help protect your vision.”
Both cataracts and glaucoma are common in people with diabetes, who are also at a higher risk for blindness. Your eye doctor can spot signs of diabetes, so you can get the care you need.
“With regular checkups, you can keep minor problems minor,” the American Diabetes Association says. “And if you do develop a major problem, there are treatments that often work well if you begin them right away.”
You can help others with eye problems
Your next trip to the eye doctor could help more than your own vision. Bring your old glasses to any of the more than 60 Nationwide Vision stores in Arizona, and they will be given to the Lions Sight & Hearing Foundation of Arizona , which aims to improve life for people who don’t have resources to care for their vision and hearing issues.
In addition to giving glasses to adults and children, the foundation collects sunglasses and reading glasses for homeless people and others in need. If any donated glasses cannot be used, they are melted down and sold to help pay for low-cost surgeries, which Lions negotiates and pays for. That means even donating your broken glasses will help others gain sight.
Collect your old glasses, and make an appointment at Nationwide Vision for everything from eye exams and corrective eye surgery to treatment of serious issues, such as cataracts, glaucoma and disorders related to diabetes. Find the location near you to schedule your annual exam.