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Americans Losing Sight of Eye Health

FRIDAY, Oct. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Even though 81 percent of Americans use some form of vision correction, 26 percent have not visited an eye doctor or eye care specialist within the past two years, according to an American Optometric Association-commissioned survey.

The poll suggests many people aren't paying enough attention to their eye health.

"Every adult should have a comprehensive eye exam at least every two years, but it's even more important for people who already use corrective lenses," Dr. James Kirchner, the AOA's eye health expert, said in an association news release.

"Too often, we see people who have put off eye exams, because they assume they just need a different lens prescription, when they really have a more serious problem. With eye diseases and disorders, as with most health issues, early detection and treatment are often the keys to avoiding permanent problems," Kirchner said.

Annual eye exams for everyone over age 60 are recommended by the AOA.

The survey of 1,001 Americans age 18 and older also found:

* Most Americans (72 percent) age 55 and older began experiencing vision changes between the ages of 40 to 45.
* As they age, respondents said they worried more about losing their vision (38 percent) than their memory (31 percent), their ability to walk (14 percent) or their hair (8 percent).
* Even though concerns about vision problems are common, 15 percent of people who don't wear any form of vision correction have never been to an eye doctor.
* Sixty-two percent of respondents didn't know that signs of diabetes may be detected by an eye doctor, while 71 percent didn't know that a comprehensive eye exam can detect hypertension, brain tumors (75 percent), cancer (78 percent), cardiovascular disease (80 percent), and multiple sclerosis (90 percent).
* Top concerns about vision problems include not being able to live independently (48 percent), losing the ability to drive (23 percent), and being unable to read (21 percent).
* Many older people are taking action to address their age-related vision problems. Sixty percent of respondents age 55 and older said they schedule frequent eye exams, 28 percent said they limit their night driving, 29 percent are eating more nutrients necessary for eye health, and 9 percent purchase books and other materials in large print.
* There were many misconceptions about behaviors that can damage eyes. For example, many incorrectly believe that eye damage can be caused by reading under dim light (71 percent), sitting too close to the television (66 percent), or by rubbing the eyes. These behaviors can cause eye strain but don't cause actual damage to the eye or eyesight.

More information

Prevent Blindness America has more about eye health.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Optometric Association, news release, Oct. 13, 2008

Last Updated: Oct. 17, 2008

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