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UI ophthalmologists encourage eye care during National Eye Care Month

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- This January the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) is celebrating National Eye Care Month, a national public awareness campaign promoting eye health and safety.

In conjunction with the month-long observance, ophthalmologists at the University of Iowa are sharing AAO tips on keeping your eyes healthy.

"Increased eye care awareness can help bring people in to ophthalmologists' offices for overdue exams or keep them away from emergency rooms by reducing the number of eye injuries," said Dr. Thomas A. Weingeist, UI professor and head of ophthalmology and visual sciences.

Glaucoma and macular degeneration, leading causes of blindness, are prevalent in Iowa because of the state's aging population. Iowa ranks third in the nation in percentage of citizens 65 years and older and first in the nation with citizens over age 80. But attention to eye care is important at any age, Weingeist said.

"It's extremely important to have your eyes checked on a regular basis," Weingeist said. "Some of the most common forms of eye disease, such as glaucoma, can usually be successfully treated if caught in the early stages. Delaying treatment can lead to vision loss and even blindness."

A quick self-assessment can help you know whether your eyesight is at risk, Weingeist said, but it is not a replacement for a medical examination.

The AAO recommends that healthy adults receive a complete medical eye examination every two to four years after age 40. Senior citizens, individuals with diabetes and people with risk factors for certain eye problems should have their eyes examined more often.

Toddlers need to be checked before they begin school, and all African-Americans over the age of 20 should be examined for glaucoma every three to five years, every two to four years between ages 40 and 64 and every one to two years after age 65.

Another eye care month goal is to promote eye safety. Every year Americans sustain thousands of devastating eye injuries. Yet 90 percent of these injuries are preventable. "It's always disturbing when someone needs to be treated for a serious eye injury," Weingeist said. "It's even sadder and more frustrating when the injury could have been prevented by an inexpensive pair of safety goggles or a facemask."

The AAO is the world's largest organization of eye physicians and surgeons with more than 25,000 members. The mission of the academy is to achieve accessible, appropriate and affordable eye care for the public by serving the educational and professional needs of ophthalmologists. Visit the academy's web site at

The department of ophthalmology and visual sciences at Iowa is ranked among the top 10 hospital eye services by U.S. News and World Report. The department includes the Center for Macular Degeneration, where researchers investigate cures for this leading cause of age-related blindness.


[EDITORS: Following are the AAO "Top Ten Tips for Keeping Your Eyes Healthy" and "Is Your Eyesight at Risk" quiz. A list of daily eye care tips for January also is available on request.]


1. Know your risk factors for eye diseases and conditions-and see your ophthalmologist for an eye exam at the intervals he/she recommends.

2. Never use fireworks, even sparklers--which burn hot enough to melt gold! Thousands of fireworks users and bystanders lose vision in fireworks accidents each year. Attend only professional fireworks displays.

3. Always wear the appropriate eye protection when playing certain sports, mowing the lawn, working with tools or using household chemicals. See your ophthalmologist or the American Academy of Ophthalmology's (AAO) website,, for recommendations.

4. Always wear sunglasses that block 99-100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays when outdoors for extended periods--particularly if you spend time in the snow or on the water.

5. If you sustain an eye injury, don't try to treat it yourself. Contact your ophthalmologist or go to the emergency room immediately. In the meantime, a paper cup held over the injured eye can help protect it without further damage until you can get help.

6. If you sustain a chemical splash, rinse the eye with generous amounts of water and get to your ophthalmologist or emergency room immediately.

7. People often forget that prescription eye drops are potent medicines and can affect the whole body. Always make sure each of your doctors has a complete and up-to-date list of all your medications. Take the bottles with you to doctors' appointments.

8. Never share cosmetics--especially eyeliner or mascara--with others. Serious eye infections can be spread from one person to another through cosmetics.

9. Always follow instructions carefully when jump-starting a car. Keep a pair of protective goggles in your car trunk, and use them if you need to jump-start your battery.

10. One of the most common eye care myths is that a cataract must be "ripe" before it is removed. If a cataract is interfering with the things you like to do, it's time to talk to your ophthalmologist about cataract surgery.




What if you were in danger of losing vision, but didn't know it?

What if a simple exam could prevent it?


Are you age 65 or older? Yes No

Have you been diagnosed with diabetes for 10 years or longer? Yes No

Are you of African-American heritage over age 40? Yes No

Has it been two years or longer since you've seen an ophthalmologist for a medical eye exam? Yes No

Have you ever had a serious eye injury? Yes No

Do you have a first-degree relative (mother, father or sibling) who has or had a serious eye problem?

Have you noticed a sudden change in your vision over the past few months?

If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, you may be at risk for certain serious eye conditions. Contact your ophthalmologist today to schedule an eye exam.