Frequently Asked Questions About Vision Health

Key points

Find out the answers to some frequently asked questions about vision health.

Older man reading with a magnifying glass.

Can I do anything about the risk of vision loss?

Remind family members and friends at higher risk for eye diseases and vision loss to have their eyes examined regularly.

It's estimated that half of visual impairment and blindness can be prevented through early diagnosis and treatment. Although there are cost-effective treatment options to prevent vision loss, cases of potentially blinding eye diseases are increasing. Increased awareness can help.

What causes vision loss for people over 40 years old?

The major eye diseases among people 40 years and older are diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and glaucoma. The number of people with blindness and vision loss increases with age in all racial and ethnic groups.

What should I know about diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among working-age (ages 20–74) Americans. It's caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina. With early diagnosis and treatment, you can prevent vision loss.

People with diabetes should have a dilated eye exam each year, but only about two thirds follow this guideline. Managing diabetes including blood sugar level, blood pressure, and cholesterol control can prevent or delay the progression of diabetic retinopathy.

What should I know about cataracts?

Cataracts are a major cause of vision loss, especially among Americans aged 40 years and older. Cataracts risk factors include age, diabetes, smoking, and prolonged exposure to sunlight.

Cataract surgery can restore vision. This surgery is highly cost-effective; however, among Black Americans, cataracts is the main cause of blindness.

What should I know about age-related macular degeneration?

Americans aged 50 years and older have a higher risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Treatment with zinc and antioxidants has been shown to prevent or delay progression to advanced AMD in this age group. The greatest risk factor is age; however, other risk factors include smoking, obesity, family history, race (White), and gender (female). Eating healthy, being physically active, and avoiding smoking can reduce the risk of AMD.

What should I know about glaucoma?

Glaucoma can be managed to prevent or delay vision loss with early detection and timely treatment. Nevertheless, half of all people with glaucoma are not diagnosed. Glaucoma is the number-one disease that causes blindness among Black Americans. People with a higher risk for glaucoma are:

  • Black adults ages 40 and older.
  • Everyone over age 60.
  • Mexican American adults.
  • People with a family history of glaucoma.

People with a high risk of glaucoma should have a dilated eye exam every two years by an eye care professional.

Keep Reading: About Glaucoma

What should I know about amblyopia (lazy eye)?

Amblyopia (or lazy eye) is the most common cause of vision loss among children. It affects 2 to 3 out of 100 children. If it is not treated timely and properly, it can stay through adulthood. It is a very common cause of vision loss in one eye among children and young adults.