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Release: Immediate

UI ophthalmologists recommend regular medical eye exams

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- This January, the American Academy of Ophthalmology is sponsoring National Eye Care Month, a national public awareness campaign promoting healthy eyes and vision safety.

"Many forms of blindness can be prevented and treated if detected early through a medical eye examination," says Dr. Thomas Weingeist, professor and head of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the UI College of Medicine. "Many of the most common forms of eye disease, such as glaucoma, cataract and diabetic retinopathy, can be successfully treated when caught in the early stages. However, if not caught in time these diseases can lead to vision loss and, eventually, blindness."

Following are guidelines for receiving baseline, comprehensive eye exams:

* Children -- Get eyes checked by age four, and younger if there is a family history of childhood vision problems or if a child has wandering or crossed eyes.

* Ages 20 - 64 -- Every two to four years if you are between 40 and 64 years old. If you are under 40, visit the ophthalmologist if you experience visual changes, injuries, pain, swelling, or redness of the eye or skin around the eye. Adults of African descent are at higher risk for glaucoma and should schedule their visits more often.

* Age 65 and older -- Every one or two years. United States citizens or legal residents age 65 and older who do not have access to an ophthalmologist they have seen in the past, and are without the means to pay for care, can contact the National Eye Care Project at 1-800-222-EYES.

People of any age who may be at risk for glaucoma can contact the Glaucoma 2001 information and referral line at 1-800-391-EYES. For those without insurance, a medical eye examination can be provided at no cost.

"Of course, if you experience any vision problems, call your ophthalmologist immediately," Weingeist adds.

For more information, visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology Web site at, or the UI department of ophthalmology and Visual Sciences Web site at