October 08, 2009 12:47 ET

On World Sight Day, a Reminder That Knowing Your Risks Can Save Your Sight

American Academy of Ophthalmology Recommends Baseline Eye Exam at Age 40 for Those Without Risk Factors or Symptoms; Women More Likely to Be Affected by Certain Eye Diseases

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--(Marketwire - October 8, 2009) - October 8 is World Sight Day and through its EyeSmart™ campaign the American Academy of Ophthalmology reminds the public that a baseline eye exam is a simple yet important measure for protecting your vision. World Sight Day this year is dedicated to raising awareness of women and eye health. Worldwide, 314 million people are visually impaired, of whom 45 million are blind. Nearly two-thirds of people affected by vision loss are female.

"Many eye diseases progress without any warning signs," says Michael Brennan, MD, president of the Academy. "Gradual changes in vision often go unnoticed but can have a devastating impact on your ability to function independently. The earlier that your Eye M.D. can detect and treat an eye disease, the better your chances are of preserving precious vision."

The Academy recommends that individuals with no signs or risk factors for eye disease know the importance of getting 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.

By 2020, 43 million Americans will face significant vision loss or blindness from age-related eye diseases, such as cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and macular degeneration, an increase of more than 50 percent over the current number of Americans with such diseases. Because women in the United States live longer than men, they are disproportionately affected by age-related eye diseases.

Learn about eye injuries or find an Eye M.D.s in your area by visiting www.GetEyeSmart.org. Consumers can submit also questions about eye health to an ophthalmologist at Ask an Eye M.D.

About the American Academy of Ophthalmology

AAO is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons -- Eye M.D.s -- with more than 27,000 members worldwide. Eye health care is provided by the three "O's" -- opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists. It is the ophthalmologist, or Eye M.D., who can treat it all: eye diseases and injuries, and perform eye surgery. For more information, visit the Academy's Web site at www.aao.org.

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