According to the American Foundation for the Blind [1], vision loss impairs not only activities like your ability to read, write, and drive, but also in some cases your ability to live independently, raise a family, maintain or start a career, and enjoy a normal social life or recreational activities.  Luckily, it has been proven that regular visits to your eye care professional greatly decreases your chances of such vision loss.  Especially for individuals over the age of 40, the need for annual eye exams becomes even more significant as age related disorders such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration amongst many other types of complications can gradually lead to complete blindness. 

Studies conducted by the University of Washington Department of Opthamalogy [2] found that 5,500,000 individuals in the United States suffer some type of visual impairment due to cataracts.  Possible causes for this disease are long term ultraviolet or radiation exposure, diabetes, hypertension, and aging amongst others.  Studies have found that wearing sunglasses regularly can actually help reduce your chances of developing cataracts by protecting your eyes from prolonged ultraviolet exposure.  The most distinct symptom of cataracts is a cloudiness of the eye, which is the result of changes in the eye’s proteins.  Although cataracts currently holds the reputation of the number one cause of blindness in the world [3], extremely effective treatment methods for cataracts exist such as the surgical removal of the cloudy lens.  However, if left completely untreated, cataracts can progress and eventually lead to blindness.

Almost as common is age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is the leading cause of vision loss amongst Americans age 60 and over [4].  According to the National Eye Instute [4], factors that increase your risk of developing AMD are: family history of AMD; age; smoking; obesity; race–caucasions have a higher affinity of developing AMD than other races; and gender–females are a higher risk than males.  AMD is characterized by blurred vision, specifically in your central vision.  The central vision is needed to focus in clearly on objects during activities like driving or reading.  This occurs when blood vessels grow beneath the macula, the part of the eye used for sharp vision, or when the macula starts to break down.  Since AMD often progresses slowly with no associated pain and such gradual vision loss that many individuals do not even realize that they are developing AMD, it is important to visit your eye care professional regularly to diagnose and slow the progression of the disease before it reaches its advanced stages, at which point some types of AMD are untreatable.  Especially if straight lines are appearing wavy or curved, or faces are becoming blurry, schedule an appointment soon to have these symptoms evaluated.

Doctors Ralph Gebert and Anthony Prate at the Eye Works, Ltd. are trained and skilled in diagnosing not only these types of diseases, but many others that impair the vision of thousands of individuals each year.  We have two locations in Barrington and Lake Zurich, and have been providing vision services to the public for 30 years.  Whether or not you are already experiencing vision loss, be sure to schedule an appointment today at the Eye Works, Ltd. to protect not only the health of your eyes, but also those activities that you enjoy on a daily basis.

1 The American Foundation for the Blind, “Living with Vision Loss”; available from; Internet accessed 05 April 2008.
2 The University of Washington Department of Opthalmalogy, “Statistics on Blindness and Blinding Diseases in the United States; available from; Internet accessed 05 April 2008.
3 National Eye Institute, “Prevalence and Causes of Visual Impairment and Blindness Among Adults 40 Years and Older in the United States”; available from; Internet accessed 05 April 2008.
4 National Eye Institute, “Age-Related Macular Degeneration”; available from; Internet accessed 05 April 2008.