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    Eye Diseases Rising at Rapid Rates in U.S.

    Biggest Rises Seen in Diabetic Retinopathy, Age-Related Macular Degeneration

    Eye Disease Report: Perspective

    The rise in diabetic retinopathy is ''scary," according to Anne Sumers, MD, a clinical correspondent for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. She reviewed the report findings for WebMD.

    "It's proof we are in a losing battle," she says. Many of the people affected, she says, are in their prime working years, risking vision loss.

    The rise in macular degeneration, she agrees, mirrors the booming aging population.

    Protecting Eye Health

    Getting regular eye checkups is a good start to protect your eye health, says Sumers, a Ridgewood, N.J., ophthalmologist.

    So are regular checkups, especially a check of blood glucose, to be sure you are not in early stages of diabetes, she says.

    "Talk to your primary care provider about what you are most at risk for," Todd says.

    He notes that ethnic groups differ, in general, in their risk for specific eye diseases.

    While whites have a higher risk of macular degeneration than other groups, African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians often have higher rates of glaucoma, he says.

    The rates of diabetes are higher in African-Americans and Hispanics than in others, he says.

    Lifestyle affects vision problems, too, Todd tells WebMD. Smoking can boost the risk of both cataracts and macular degeneration, he says.

    Eating healthy can help your eyes, too, he says.

    The full report can be viewed at www.preventblindness.org/visionproblems.

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