MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – May is Healthy Vision Month, and doctors at the West Virginia University Eye Institute are taking the opportunity to stress the importance of regular vision care for children and adults. Vision changes as people get older, but vision loss is not a normal part of aging.

“It is very important that everyone be examined to see if they have a problem that could threaten their ability to see. Particularly if you do not see well, it may be as simple as needing a pair of glasses or a cataract that can be removed that will allow you to see much better,” Ronald Gross, M.D., director of the WVU Eye Institute and chair of the WVU Department of Ophthalmology, said. “And, every child needs to be checked to be sure they see as well as possible so they can do well in school.”

Common eye diseases, such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), threaten millions of Americans, potentially robbing them of vision, mobility and independence.

Early stages of these diseases typically have no symptoms and can best be detected through a comprehensive dilated eye exam. Pupil dilation allows a doctor to closely examine the back of the eye for signs of disease.

Glaucoma causes damage to the optic nerve, which relays visual information from the retina to the brain. The retina is the light-sensing layer of tissue in the back of the eye. Diabetic retinopathy – a complication of diabetes – causes swelling, leakage and blockage of the blood vessels that nourish the retina. AMD occurs when cells in the center part of the retina, called the macula, break down.

“Even if you think you see well, it is worth a check-up to be sure that glaucoma or other problems are not present,” Dr. Gross, a glaucoma specialist, said.

People at higher risk of glaucoma include: African-Americans age 40 and older; everyone age 60 and older, especially Mexican Americans; and people with a family history of the disease. People over 50 years old, smokers and those with a family history are at greater risk of AMD. All diabetics are at risk for diabetic retinopathy.

Healthy Vision Month is a national eye health observance established by the National Eye Institute (NEI) in May 2003. During Healthy Vision Month, NEI is increasing awareness of the importance of early diagnosis and treatment through outreach efforts aimed at the general public.

The WVU Eye Institute provides a full range of eye care under one roof — from routine eye exams to subspecialty medical and surgical treatment and laser vision correction. Eye Institute physicians have completed fellowships in various specialties, including pediatric ophthalmology, neuro-ophthalmology, vitreoretinal surgery, glaucoma, cornea and external eye disease and orbital and ophthalmic plastic surgery. The WVU Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Research Center are also housed in the WVU Eye Institute.  

To learn more about the Eye Institute, call 304-598-4820 or visit
For more information: Angela Jones-Knopf, News Service Coordinator, 304-293-7087
st: 04-29-13