Myth vs. Fact: Test Your Eye-Q

How much do you know about your eyes? Many Americans are in the dark about eye diseases that could cause blindness, according to a recent survey conducted by U.S. National Eye Institute and the Lions Clubs International Foundation. Use this guide to separate sight myths from reality and to become more enlightened about your vision.

Myth 1: Having trouble seeing well enough (even with glasses or contacts) to do everyday tasks, like reading, cooking, writing, and watching TV, is just a normal part of aging.

Fact: Difficulty seeing objects in the distance, seeing close up, and differentiating colors is likely caused by low vision. Low vision means your sight cannot be corrected to better than 20/70, according to the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center. It is not a natural result of aging, though it is more common in older adults. Low vision affects millions of Americans and is usually caused by macular degeneration, glaucoma, or diabetic retinopathy. It is not the same as blindness, which is defined as vision that cannot be corrected to better than 20/200.

Myth #2: The symptoms of glaucoma are easy to identify.

Fact: Glaucoma, which can damage the optic nerve and cause blindness, typically has no noticeable warning signs. However, eye exams can detect elevated pressure of fluid in the eye, which often develops into glaucoma. If you have elevated pressure, your eye doctor can prescribe medication to manage the condition and prevent vision loss.

Myth #3: You're more likely to develop cataracts if you use your eyes too much.

Fact: The exact reason cataracts, which cause cloudy vision, develop is still unknown, but diabetics and smokers have a higher risk of getting them. Some researchers suspect that cataracts are simply the result of aging and natural wear and tear on the eye's lens. Half of all Americans over 80 have a cataract or have had surgery to remove one.

Myth #4:  People with type 2 diabetes aren't at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy.

Fact: Type 1 diabetics are more likely to develop diabetic retinopathy, but anyone with diabetes is at risk. If you have diabetes, the likelihood that you will develop diabetic retinopathy depends on how well your blood sugar is controlled, your blood pressure levels, and how long you've had diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. Retinopathy in its most advanced stage can lead to blindness.

Myth 5: Everyone who has age-related macular degeneration (AMD) will eventually go blind.

Fact: AMD first impairs central or straight-ahead vision, progressing to the point where it destroys all vision. In many people, the disease progresses so slowly that they never lose all sight. However, it remains the leading cause of blindness, affecting more than 10 million Americans, according to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation.

Myth #6: Floaters are usually a sign of a more serious problem.

Fact: For most people, floaters are those faint little spots or squiggles that seem to dart around are simply annoying, according to the National Eye Institute. They're more likely to develop as we age, in people with diabetes, or in people who are very nearsighted. If floaters come on suddenly and are accompanied by flashes of light and partial loss of vision, it may be a sign of retinal detachment, which is a serious condition and should be treated immediately.