(HealthDay News) -- Even people with no signs or risk factors for eye disease can suffer vision loss and need to get baseline eye exams at age 40, says the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
The reminder is part of the academy's EyeSmart campaign to mark Save Your Vision Month in February.
"Many eye diseases progress without any warning sings," Dr. Stephanie Marioneaux, a clinical correspondent for the AAO, said in a prepared statement. "Gradual changes in vision can affect your ability to function independently and have confidence in your abilities. One of the hardest adjustments a person can make is adapting to life with permanent vision loss. That is why nothing replaces a comprehensive baseline eye exam."
Based on the findings from the initial screening, an ophthalmologist will create a schedule for follow-up eye exams.
People of any age who have symptoms of eye disease or at high risk due to family history, diabetes or high blood pressure should consult with their ophthalmologist to determine how often they should have their eyes checked, the AAO recommends.
By 2020, 43 million Americans will be at significant risk for vision loss or blindness due to age-related eye diseases such as cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and macular degeneration. That's a more than 50 percent increase over the current number of Americans with such vision-threatening diseases.
But many Americans are unconcerned about the risk of vision loss. Only 23 percent of Americans are very concerned about losing their vision, while most feel weight gain or joint or back pain are greater worries than vision loss, according to an AAO survey conducted for its EyeSmart campaign.
"Unfortunately, millions of people with suffer significant vision loss and blindness because they don't know the risks. That is why the academy launched the EyeSmart campaign, because knowing your risks can save your sight," Marioneaux said.
The U.S. National Eye Institute has more about eye disease risk.