Eye exams are even more critical now: they can inform senior citizens about increased risk for other significant health concerns.

SOME say the eyes are windows to the soul. But did you know that the eye disease age-related macular degeneration (AMD) can also indicate increased risk of heart attack or stroke?

EyeCare America, a public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, is raising awareness about AMD and its potential “window to health” through your eyes.

Imagine seeing black holes in your field of vision instead of your family, your garden or your favorite book. More than 10 million Americans suffer from AMD. AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow under the eye’s macula, where the sharpest, central vision occurs. It’s the leading cause of vision loss for those 65 and older. While not curable, AMD’s advancement can be delayed and treated, leading to many more years of healthy vision for those who detect it early through an eye exam.

This same blood vessel damage can also indicate risk for heart attack or stroke—as much as 8 to 10 times greater. An Australian study noted that among those whose health was followed for a number of years, subjects with AMD had more than double the incidence of heart attack or stroke.

Eye exams let patients know of increased risk for other serious health problems.

EyeCare America provides eye exams at no out-of-pocket cost to people 65 and older and offers online medication assistance information. Eye exams are provided by a corps of nearly 7,000 volunteer ophthalmologists across the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

Those interested in the program can visit www.eyecareamerica.org to see if they are eligible. The organization’s online referral center also enables friends and family members to find out instantly whether their loved ones are eligible to be matched with a volunteer ophthalmologist.

EyeCare America is designed for people who are U.S. senior citizens or legal residents who haven’t seen an ophthalmologist in three or more years. Additional information can be found at www.eyecareamerica.org. (NewsUSA) ■