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

San Francisco - October 8 is World Sight Day and the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the Glaucoma Research Foundation remind 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.”

Even individuals with no signs or risk factors for eye disease should get 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 eye doctor will prescribe the necessary intervals for follow-up exams.

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.

It is estimated that over 4 million Americans have glaucoma but only half of those know they have it. Approximately 120,000 Americans are blind from glaucoma, accounting for 9% to 12% of all cases of blindness in the U.S.

Last reviewed on May 18, 2011

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