Government Initiative Brings Vision Loss Into Focus
WebMD News Archive
So exactly what are the National Eye Institute's plans to implement these
initiatives? Obviously, just publishing some great ideas on eye care will not
improve the eye health of the nation.
Michael Davis, associate director for science, policy, and legislation at
the National Eye Institute, tells WebMD that the program is in its
organizational stage, since the Healthy People programs are forward-looking
initiatives. Healthy People 2000 was implemented in 1990. So this current
program is just beginning to organize national programs and campaigns to take
effect in 2010, and it is still very much in the planning stages.
According to Pronesti, anything that can increase awareness and bring more
people into the office to have their eyes checked is important. "You really
don't appreciate how important it can be to get things checked until you lose
vision or until something goes wrong," he says. However, with some eye
problems, if you wait until there is a noticeable change in vision, it is often
Take glaucoma, for instance. "Glaucoma is silent," Pronesti says.
"Once you begin to notice that you can't see well, it's way too late, and
there's almost nothing you can do at that point."
Early vision loss from glaucoma, he explains, affects tiny pinpoint areas of
peripheral vision. These are not usually noticeable to patients, but screening
machines that map the side vision can pick up these early losses.
Another serious eye problem is diabetic retinopathy, a very serious disease
that affects the retina in people with diabetes; left unchecked, it can lead to
blindness. People who have diabetes for longer than 5 years have a more than
50% chance of developing diabetic retinopathy. People with diabetes need
regular eye exams and if problems are detected, they need to step up the
frequency of those office visits.
Prevention and early treatment are most important for everyone. Davis tells
WebMD that one of the goals is a quality of life issue, since vision loss often
has a direct effect on how people function day-to-day. People need to be aware
of programs, screening, treatments, and devices that can help them see better.
Low vision devices designed for people nearly blinded by age-related macular
degeneration, a disease that affects the central part of the retina, can help
these people read again. But, many people -- including physicians -- don't know
that these devices exist.
Public awareness campaigns and free community screenings are the types of
programs that often grow out of the Healthy People initiative, Davis says.
"What we're hoping to do is to have the organizations that are already
established come up with ideas on how to communicate with people better about
treatment availability and the means to improve vision," he says. "In
many cases, once you've lost your vision, that's it. It cannot be