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Healthy Vision Month Promotes Awareness and Correction of Eyesight Problems

Vision changes as people get older, but vision loss is not a normal part of aging.  There’s nothing people can do to prevent aging, but there’s plenty they can do to prevent vision loss.  The National Institutes of Health’s National Eye Institute (NEI) has designated May as Healthy Vision Month to encourage such awareness and prevention.
Common eye diseases such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) threaten millions of Americans, potentially robbing them of vision, mobility and independence. New discoveries are yielding sight-saving treatments, but early diagnosis, timely treatment and appropriate follow-up care are essential to preventing irreversible vision loss.
Early stages of common eye diseases typically have no symptoms and can be detected only through a comprehensive dilated-eye exam. Pupil dilation allows a doctor to closely examine the back of the eye for signs of eye disease.
Glaucoma causes damage to the optic nerve, which relays visual information from the retina to the brain. The retina is the light-sensing layer of tissue in the back of the eye. Diabetic retinopathy—a complication of diabetes—causes swelling, leakage and blockage of the blood vessels that nourish the retina. AMD occurs when cells in the center part of the retina, called the macula, break down.
People at higher risk of glaucoma include African-Americans age 40 and older; everyone age 60 and older, especially Mexican-Americans; and people with a family history of the disease. People at risk of diabetic retinopathy include people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. People over 50 years old, whites, smokers and those with a family history of AMD are at greater risk of AMD.
Through new tools for DNA analysis, the NEI is identifying gene variations that influence eye disease risk. Scientists can then study these genes to understand disease pathways and identify therapeutic targets.
Recent clinical trials sponsored by the NEI have provided doctors with crucial data regarding prevention and treatment of AMD. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study determined that taking high levels of antioxidants and zinc reduces the risk of developing AMD by about 25%. The NEI Comparison of AMD Treatments Trials found that the two most commonly used AMD drugs—one that was designed for use in the eye and a much cheaper drug that was developed to treat cancer—are equally effective in treating AMD.
Scientists have successfully treated people with a rare retinal disease called Leber congenital amaurosis using gene-transfer therapy. Work in stem-cell therapy is also making good progress. Preliminary work by NEI-funded scientists has demonstrated with lab experiments the possibility of generating transplantable retinal tissue from mature blood cells.
Make healthy vision last a lifetime, the NEI urges, and during Healthy Vision Month, help elevate vision as a health priority.
For more information about keeping eyes healthy, visit

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