How much do you know about eye health?

Written By: Susanne Medeiros for American Academy of Ophthalmology Apr. 22, 2020

Study after study has shown that people fear vision loss more than they fear cancer, stroke, heart disease and other serious ailments.  But while most adults assume they're well versed in vision facts, few actually are. And that lack of knowledge only increases their risk. You might be surprised by these findings from an online survey of 3,512 American adults conducted by The Harris Poll for the American Academy of Ophthalmology in 2019.

81% of Americans say they are knowledgeable about eye and vision health BUT only 1 in 5 where able to identify 1 of the three main causes of blindness in the US: Glaucoma, Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and diabetic eye disease.


What you don't know about eye health could harm you

Most people are unaware of basic facts that could protect them from vision loss. For example, only about one-third of Americans know that eye diseases can steal your sight before you notice symptoms. That's because your brain adapts to vision loss, making it difficult to notice the decline — something that less than half of adults realize.

Did you know:

  • Many forms of glaucoma have no warning signs. You may lose most of your vision before you realize you are affected.. That's because the disease begins so gradually.
  • People with diabetic retinopathy may not notice vision problems at first. But eventually this disease can cause blindness.
  • Sudden blurriness or trouble seeing colors and fine details can signal age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Symptoms usually appear suddenly and worsen rapidly.

63% of American adults are unaware that you don't always experience symptoms before you lose vision to eye disease.

person holding brown eyeglasses with green trees background

Are you at risk of vision loss?

Did you know that certain groups have a higher risk of eye problems than others? If so, you're a step ahead of most adults.

  • African Americans are 6-8 times more likely to get glaucoma and go blind to it.
  • 90% of Americans with age-related macular degeneration are caucasian.
  • Asians are at an increased rate of less common glaucomas (angle closure and normal tension).
  • African Americans, Hispanics and Aboriginals have a higher risk of getting diabetes. 45% of diabetics have some state of diabetic eye disease.

About one-third of Americans develop some form of vision-reducing eye disease by age 65. But you might be surprised to know that vision loss is not always part of growing older.

53% of American adults are unaware that vision loss and blindness do not affect people equally and 2/3 falsely believe that vision loss is inevitable as you age.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect your eyes as you age. Top 5 ways to Protect Your Vision as you Age:

(You may still need reading glasses as you age, but these measures can help prevent sight-threatening eye disease.

  • Eat a healthy diet - including leafy greens such as spinach or kale, and maintain a healthy weight
  • Wear sunglasses that block out 99%-100% UVA and UVB rays
  • Quit smoking...or don't start
  • Get regular eye exams.
  • Know your family's eye health history

Vision loss affects more than just your eyes

Vision loss in adults increases the risks of injury and death, a fact that more than half of Americans know. But the impacts of vision loss are underappreciated by most Americans, the survey reveals. 

Few people realize that declininc eyesight can worsen the effects of other chronic illnesses.  And only 1 in 4 adults know that vision loss is tied to psychological problems such as social isolation and depression.

Protecting sight, empowering lives

Ophthalmologists – physicians who specialize in medical and surgical eye care – can diagnose eye diseases earlier and treat them more effectively than ever before. But these advances are meaningless for patients with undiagnosed disease. Nor can they help patients who remain unaware of the seriousness of their disease.

It's important to get help before it's too late. Far too often, ophthalmologists witness the consequences of patients entering their office too late to avoid severe vision loss.