October each year is designated as Blindness Awareness Month or Eye Care Awareness Month.
We take this month to raise awareness to the importance of eye health and to preventable and treatable blindness. It is said that up to 80% of blindness is avoidable through prevention or treatment. That's why, during Blind Awareness month, we are urging you to take care of your eye health.
As I personally learned in January of 2018, vision loss can happen "in the blink of an eye." But my conditions, a torn retina and a detached vitrious were able to be corrected. But only if you take steps to take care of your vision health. Read my story.
Vision loss in Americans over age 40 affects over 3 million people, with that number expected to nearly double to 5.5 million by 2020, due to the aging population. There's nothing like when the doctor tells you that you've done nothing wrong, that it is just "age related." This is more than 3% of the overall population.
But children are also at risk. In youth between ages 4 and 20, a total of 678,000 (0.78%) reported visual disability, with girls at 324,000 (0.76%) and boys at 354,000 (0.8%). Vision loss in school age children impacts their learning, their social interactions and their self confidence and independence.
But prevention and treatment can keep those numbers from growing. 65 million people are afflicted by cataracts, and the vast majority of the 10 million Americans who have retinal diseases, those affecting the thin tissue at the back of the eye (the retina), suffer from deteriorated peripheral and night vision. But many of these conditions can be corrected, and even with limited vision, people are able to live fulfilling lives, raise families and have productive careers.
Recently we've seen a prime example of blind alpine skier Danelle Umstead, who has taken to the dancefloor in Dancing With The Stars. Umstead, who has retinitis pigmentosa and multiple sclerosis, said she is "loving every minute of it." Although she was scared at first about going down the stairs on stage, she held on to professional partner Artem Chigvintsev and put her trust in him. Learn more about Danelle Umstead.
And there are so many stories about people with vision loss breaking down barriers and doing amazing things, like Michael Somsan, a military veteran who was blinded by a gunshot to the head at the age of 23 and is now a successful lawyer, judge, professor, and ironman triathalete. Or blind twin brothers John and Larry Gassman who became proficient with computers and now have similar jobs at Disney and Marriott that entail making sure the software used by each of their employers is accessible to other blind employees using screen readers. You can read about and listen to these and many more stories on Eyes on Success.
Learn more about Blindness Awareness Month at these resources: