The CDC’s Vision Health Initiative (VHI) is partnering with the National Eye Institute to encourage all Americans to make vision a health priority. Vision impairment becomes more common as people age. Women, minority groups, and people with chronic diseases like diabetes may be at higher risk for having vision impairment. The number of Americans 40 years and older with diabetic retinopathy and vision threatening retinopathy will triple in 2050; from 5.5 million to 16 million and from 1.2 million to 3.4 million respectively. While some eye conditions, like cataract, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration, can cause vision loss and even blindness, others, such as refractive errors, are common problems that can be easily corrected with glasses or contact lenses.

Vision health is an important public health concern because vision loss is associated with falls, depression, social isolation, and overall poorer health. Quality of life may be comprised because people with vision loss may have difficulties with activities such as reading, meal preparation, and driving a car.

Regular eye exams are important for good eye health as well as overall health. A comprehensive dilated eye exam is a painless procedure in which an eye care professional examines the eyes to look for common vision problems and eye diseases, many of which have no early warning signs. People with diabetes need a comprehensive dilated eye examination at least once a year. Early detection, timely treatment, and appropriate follow-up may prevent vision loss and blindness.

Here are some tips to help you protect your vision:

Get a comprehensive dilated eye exam

Know your family’s eye health history

Eat right to protect your sight, particularly dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, or collard greens and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids

Maintain a healthy weight

Wear protective eyewear when playing sports or doing activities around the home

Quit smoking or never start

Wear sunglasses that block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation

Clean your hands and your contact lenses properly to avoid the risk of infection

Practice workplace eye safety

For more information about vision health, visit the VHI Web site. The VHI team works with an array of partners to implement a public health framework that promotes vision health and quality of life for all populations, through all life stages, by preventing and controlling eye diseases, eye injury, and vision loss resulting in disability. The VHI is located in CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation.

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