• Get an Eye Disease Screening at 40

    Written By: David Turbert
    Reviewed By: Ninel Z Gregori MD
    Mar. 01, 2019

    The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends an eye disease screening for all aging adults.

    When Should You See an Ophthalmologist?

    For people with no symptoms of eye problems or risk factors:

    Adults with no symptoms or risk factors for eye disease should get a baseline eye disease screening at age 40. Early signs of disease and changes in vision may start to occur at this age. Your ophthalmologist will tell you how often to have follow-up exams based on the results of this screening. He or she will compare the results of your baseline screening to your future exam results.

    For people with symptoms of eye problems or risk factors:

    People of any age who have symptoms or are at risk for eye disease should see an ophthalmologist now to determine how often to have eye exams. People in this group should not wait until age 40 to get a baseline eye disease screening.

    These risk factors include:

    If you already see an ophthalmologist to treat ongoing disease or injuries, do not stop. Also, keep your current vision examination appointments for eyeglasses or contact lenses.

    Getting your eye health screening at 40 is much like mammograms at 40 or colon screenings at 50. Adults should take similar steps to maintain their eye health as they age.

    Why Get an Eye Screening at 40?

    A baseline eye exam is important because it may detect eye diseases common in adults aged 40 and older. The exam provides greater opportunity for early treatment and preservation of vision.

    An exam by an ophthalmologist can uncover common conditions like those outlined below. It can also find less common but serious problems, such as ocular tumors. The exam can also reveal systemic diseases that affect the eyes, like hypertension and diabetes. With early treatment, potentially blinding eye problems often have a good outcome. These diseases include glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy.

    Common Eye Diseases Found in People 40 and Older

    Common eye diseases can impact people 40 and older without them knowing there is any problem with their eyes. An eye screening at 40 can catch these diseases early and prevent vision loss.

    Glaucoma

    In 2010, an estimated 2.7 million people in the United States had primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) caused by elevated eye pressure. The National Eye Institute expects that number to increase to 4.3 million in 2030 and 6.3 million in 2050. Many people have no idea that they have glaucoma until they have significant, irreversible vision loss. This is because this disease often has no symptoms until vision loss is extensive. Early detection and treatment of POAG may prevent or delay loss of vision.

    Diabetic retinopathy

    Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness and often affects working-aged adults. Diabetic retinopathy statistics from the National Eye Institute are alarming. In 2010, about 7.7 million U.S. adults 40 years and older had diabetic retinopathy. By 2030, that number is expected to increase to 11.3 million, and it will be 14.6 million by 2050.

    Effective treatments are available for reducing the risk of blindness from diabetic retinopathy. Unfortunately, many diabetics do not receive treatment in time to reduce vision loss. In fact, in 2017, 7.2 million Americans had diabetes but didn't even know it. That's nearly 1/4 of all diabetics.

    Cataracts

    Cataracts are very common. In 2010 there were 24.4 million cases of cataracts in the United States. We often think of cataracts as strictly a problem for senior citizens. However, the risk of developing cataracts starts to increase at about age 40. Starting to follow your eye health at 40 can prevent cataracts from interfering with your vision as you age.

    Take Steps to Protect Your Vision

    If you are age 40 or older and have not had a recent eye disease screening, schedule one with an ophthalmologist today. It is an essential step toward preserving your vision and keeping your eyes healthy.