If your eyes aren’t working properly, it can impact everything you do, including the way you move. In fact, vision problems rank among the top 10 disabilities in the United States for adults as well as children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But when eye conditions are detected early, many of the most common ones can be managed and treated. That’s why it’s important to make your eye health a priority and make an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam. May is Healthy Vision Month, so it’s a great time to get your eyes checked.

As you prepare for your appointment, here are some myths and facts to consider about eyes and eye health.

Myth: If I have an eye condition, I’ll know it.

Fact: Some of the most common eye conditions may begin with no symptoms. When you make an appointment for an eye exam, an optometrist or ophthalmologist can dilate your eyes and carry out a number of routine tests to detect conditions you might not otherwise know about. That’s because a number of the leading causes of blindness—such as macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and glaucoma—can develop without causing any changes to your vision early on. It’s even possible for a person with any of those conditions to still have 20/20 vision. With early detection, your vision care provider can begin early treatment, which may help keep your sight strong.

Myth: Eye issues only impact older adults.

Fact: Eye exams are important for young people, too. According to the CDC, just one in seven kids in preschool has had an eye exam, and even fewer (one in four) have had a vision screening. When children get their eyes checked, their health care provider can determine if they need glasses or other types of intervention. That’s why the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force recommends that all children between ages 3 and 5 have their vision screened for conditions like amblyopia (also known as “lazy eye”), so they can be treated early if they’re struggling. 

Myth: My eyes can protect themselves, that’s why I blink!

Fact: It’s true that blinking helps keep your eyes moist and protects them from dust, dirt and things that might irritate them. But sometimes you need a little extra protection. That’s where safety glasses, goggles and other protective gear comes in. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, chemicals in household cleaning products cause 125,000 eye injuries each year. Yard work and home improvement projects can also cause injuries. So consider your vision at all times, whether you’re on the job, on the sports field or at home, and protect those peepers!

Myth: Aside from wearing glasses, there’s nothing I can do to help my vision.

Fact: Your eye health is a part of your overall health, and that means that you can make a number of healthy changes that may help lower your risk for common eye conditions. Those include eating a balanced diet filled with fruits, vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids (the CDC recommends lots of dark leafy greens, like spinach, collards and kale, and fish like salmon, albacore tuna, trout and halibut). Plus, maintain an active lifestyle and a healthy weight, get enough sleep, quit smoking (or never start) and learn about your family’s vision history so you can share that information with your eye doctor (a number of eye conditions are hereditary). Learn about these steps and more from the CDC.

Myth: All sunglasses provide the same amount of protection.

Fact: Not all sunglasses are equal when it comes to protecting your eyes. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the most important thing to look for in shades is a tag or sticker saying they block 100% of UV rays.  In addition, seek out over-sized or wraparound glasses that offer a wider berth of protection. According to the Cleveland Clinic, wearing sunglasses may help lower your risk for conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration, and they even help prevent skin cancer. And, bonus, they can provide wrinkle protection, too!

Myth: If I take care of my vision I won’t have any problems.

Fact: Unfortunately, that’s not always true either. A number of eye conditions become more common with age. But on a positive note, often these conditions can be treated. After the age of 40, for example, people often have more difficulty reading because of something called “presbyopia,” which can be corrected with reading glasses. In addition, some people have more difficulty seeing at night as they grow older; others experience dry eyes; some see floaters or spots; and about half of people develop cataracts after 75. All of these are normal, and if you’ve noticed them impacting your vision, that’s something to bring up during your next eye exam.

Myth: All eye care professionals are the same.

Fact: There are different kinds of eye care specialists, including ophthalmologists, optometrists and opticians. An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor (with either an MD or DO degree) and has undergone extensive medical training, including attaining four-year college degree followed by four years of medical school and at least four more years of medical and surgical training. Some ophthalmologists are also specialists in certain aspects of the eye and eye health, like a glaucoma specialist, a retina specialist or a cornea specialist. Because of their extensive training, ophthalmologists are the only eye doctors who can perform surgery on the eye, and they may be able to diagnose and treat more conditions.

An optometrist is someone who has earned their Doctor of Optometry degree (OD). Generally, they’ve attended college for two to four years and then graduated from a four-year optometry program. They’re qualified to provide vision care and perform vision exams, detect eye conditions, prescribe corrective lenses and more. An optician is a technician who has been trained to help fit a patient with eyeglasses and contact lenses. They are not trained to perform vision tests or diagnose or treat eye conditions.  

After reading these myths and facts, have you gained a new appreciation for your vision? It’s important! And many people don’t realize just how important their vision is until they experience some kind of change. To learn more about your eyes, and to make strides in keeping them healthy, make an appointment for an eye exam soon.