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NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine, Trusted Health Information from the National Institutes of Health


How to Keep Your Sight for Life

Fast Facts

  • Most blindness is preventable through
    timely treatment.
  • Protect your eyesight through regular eye exams, maintaining a healthy diet, and protecting your eyes at all ages.
  • 20/20 vision does not necessarily mean perfect vision. Overall visual ability also includes peripheral awareness (side vision), eye coordination, depth perception, focusing ability, and color vision.
  • Common impairments to vision include near-sightedness, far-sightedness, age-related blurriness, and astigmatism.
  • The leading causes of blindness are cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy.

Most of us take our eyesight for granted—until it's threatened. But there are steps you can take to make sure that your own eyes—and those of your loved ones—last a lifetime.

Most Americans report that, of all disabilities, loss of eyesight would have the greatest impact on their daily life, according to a recent survey by the NIH's National Eye Institute (NEI). Vision loss ranks ahead of loss of memory, speech, arm or leg, and hearing. After all, 80 percent of the sensory information the brain receives comes from our eyes.

Still, it may be surprising to learn that losing eyesight is not a normal part of aging. What's more, the NEI reports that most cases of blindness can be prevented through early detection and treatment of eye diseases.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the National Eye Institute (NEI). Its research and funding have helped prevent and treat eye diseases and vision disorders and enabled great strides in the understanding of eye health. Still, tens of millions of people of all ages suffer vision loss from very common, correctable conditions because they don't understand their own eyes.

Blindness or low vision affects 3.3 million Americans age 40 and over. That's one person in 28, according to one recent NEI-funded study. This figure is projected to reach 5.5 million by the year 2020. Low vision and blindness increase significantly with age, particularly in people over age 65. People 80 years of age and older currently make up 8 percent of the population, but account for 69 percent of blindness.

"As vision research advances, we are finding newer and better ways to detect and treat eye diseases," says NEI Director Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D. "Programs that educate people about early detection and treatment will become even more important."

Summer 2008 Issue: Volume 3 Number 3 Page 12