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March 30 is National Doctors’ Day – It’s a Perfect Time to See the Medical Doctors Who Care for Your Eyes

03/27/2013   08:30:00 AM

American Academy of Ophthalmology urges the public to consider vision as part of an overall health maintenance strategy 

SAN FRANCISCO—Vision is our most prized sense. In fact most people fear losing it more than any other primary sense, and in some surveys the fear of going blind ranks as high as that of heart disease1. When these fears begin to be realized and people's ability to work, drive and live independently is threatened, it can frequently be too late for a full recovery of precious sight.

On National Doctors' Day, observed March 30, the American Academy of Ophthalmology encourages the public to understand the importance of vision and overall eye health and the role of ophthalmologists in helping them to maintain a lifetime of healthy vision. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who specialize in the diagnosis, medical and surgical treatment of eye diseases and conditions.  It is important to understand the specialized eye care ophthalmologists provide, and why these medical doctors and surgeons are the only eye care providers qualified to perform medical-based eye care and surgical procedures. 

The American Academy of Ophthalmology encourages the public to consider their eyes as part of an overall health-maintenance strategy. Among its recommendations for healthy vision are: 

  • Exercise – Our eyes need good blood circulation and oxygen intake, and both are stimulated by regular exercise. Being physically active also helps in maintaining weight in a normal range, which reduces the risk of diabetes and diabetic retinopathy, which is a serious eye complication related to that disease.
  • Don't smoke – Avoiding smoking or quitting altogether is one of the best investments a person can make in their long-term health. Smoking increases the risks of a variety of diseases, including those that affect the eye such as cataracts and diabetic-related conditions.
  • Protect Your Eyes at Work and at Play – One of the best investments in eye health is to be sure to protect them with proper eye wear, whether it's enjoying a day in the sun, playing sports or doing household chores, be safe with your eyes at all times.
  • Get Regular Eye Exams – Ophthalmologists recommend that adults with no signs or risk factors for eye disease get a baseline eye disease screening at age 40, which is typically the approximate time when early signs of disease and changes in vision may start to occur. Individuals at any age with symptoms or who are at risk for eye disease, such as those with a family history of eye disease, diabetes or high blood pressure should see their ophthalmologist to determine how frequently their eyes should be examined.
  • Understand the impact of other diseases on the eyes – The eyes are extraordinarily complex.  They contain pigmented cells, a rich network of blood vessels, and connective tissue; and the eye's retina is actually a part of the brain. Therefore, many systemic diseases such as diabetes, sleep apnea, various tumors, hypertension, sickle cell disease, lupus, and many others can affect the eyes and threaten vision. Your primary care physician may call upon your ophthalmologist to detect and manage these problems. 

"Maintaining healthy vision should be a top priority for everyone, particularly as they get older," said David W. Parke II, M.D., chief executive officer of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. "Ophthalmologists, who provide medical and surgical care, along with our colleagues who provide non-medical eye care services, encourage everyone to take a proactive role in understanding the importance of good eye health and taking the necessary steps in trying to ensure that they don't miss seeing a single thing that life has to offer." 

National Doctors' Day was first observed in 1933 in Georgia, established by the wife of a physician to honor her husband and other doctors. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the observance of National Doctors' Day into law, to "recognize our nation's physicians for their leadership in the prevention and treatment of illness and injury."  

In recognition of this observance and to remind the public about the role ophthalmologists play within the medical community, the American Academy of Ophthalmology's public education program, EyeSmart, is highlighting a series of short videos in which ophthalmologists speak about their passion for helping patients, the expertise they bring to eye care and their dedication to preserving vision and preventing blindness. 

EyeSmart provides comprehensive information about eye diseases and conditions, as well as guidelines for the recommended frequency of eye exams for different age groups.   

About the American Academy of Ophthalmology
The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons — Eye M.D.s— with nearly 32,000 members worldwide.  Eye health care is provided by the three "O's" – ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians. It is the ophthalmologist, or Eye M.D., who has the education and training to treat it all: eye diseases, infections and injuries, and perform eye surgery. For more information, visit www.aao.org.  The Academy's EyeSmart® program educates the public about the importance of eye health and empowers them to preserve healthy vision. EyeSmart provides the most trusted and medically accurate information about eye diseases, conditions and injuries. OjosSanos™ is the Spanish-language version of the program. Visit www.geteyesmart.org or www.ojossanos.org  to learn more.

1Harris Interactive national telephone survey, conducted in September 2010 for Lighthouse International

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