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Would You Rather Lose a Limb or Your Eyesight?

By: Michael W. Smith, MD

Eyesight

When I first read that question, I had to think about it a bit.

In a new survey, almost 70% of people around the world said they’d rather lose a limb or give up 10 years of their life rather than lose their eyesight. I think I agree. This question, among others, was asked to over 11,000 people across 11 countries in a survey performed by eye care company Bausch + Lomb.

Of course, the thought of losing a limb or eyesight is almost unbearable to those of us who don’t currently face those daily struggles. Having to choose sounds like the latest version of a Saw movie. But here’s how I decided.

If I lost a limb, there are medical treatments – prosthetics — that can help me become mobile again. I’d unlikely be able to move quite the same, but I could, at a minimum, get some function back. But there’s no prosthetic eye that gives you your vision back (unless you’re the Bionic Man, for those of us who can remember back that far). Maybe not a deep, thoughtful reason, but there you go.

So if our vision is so important to us, why do we ignore our eye health? In the survey only 21% had an eye exam in the last 5 years. I like to think many of us have become much more aware of our health in recent years, but that doesn’t seem to apply to our eyes. In the survey less than one third said they do what they should to preserve their eye sight. That includes getting regular eye exams, eating right to protect your vision, keeping a healthy weight, and wearing sunglasses to block damaging UV rays.

Here are two great reasons to get your eyes checked. First, your eye doctor can find vision problems early before they affect your vision and can often stop them in their tracks. In fact, most vision loss is preventable if found early.

Second, heard the saying that your eyes are the window to your soul? I’m not philosophically inclined enough to speak to that. But your eyes are definitely the window to your health – and not just your eye health. Your eye doctor can find certain conditions, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, years before you develop symptoms (actually, these conditions often don’t have any symptoms until a lot of damage is already done).

By keeping this in mind, hopefully none of us will ever have to face such a serious question about our eyesight.

Photo: Thinkstock

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