By Tri-Service Vision Conservation and Readiness Program Staff, U.S. Army Public Health CommandFebruary 3, 2014
February is Low Vision Awareness Month. Low vision is a general term used to describe partial sight or sight that is not fully correctable by lenses, surgery or medication.
In the United States, the most common causes of low vision are age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss for people over the age of 50. Other causes include glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, albinism, some birth-related conditions and trauma.
Doctors help low vision patients increase visual function by prescribing and training them to use magnifiers, prisms and automated reading and writing devices. These alternatives help maximize existing vision and teach people how to accomplish things they would like to do by using technology and other senses such as hearing and touch.
Roughly 92 percent of Army personnel are under the age of 40, so the more immediate low vision concern is from trauma. An eye injury can occur literally faster than the blink of an eye, and in that brief time the injury may cause permanent loss of vision. Unlike AMD, glaucoma and cataracts, trauma can be prevented or reduced through basic safety precautions.
The best way to preserve your vision is to protect it. People can drastically reduce the risk of certain conditions such as diabetes through a good diet and exercise. Soldiers can reduce the risk of cataracts by wearing sunglasses that block ultraviolet light, or by limiting exposure to it. Finally, Soldiers can avoid most eye injuries simply by using appropriate eye protection at work, home, during recreational activities and any time eye hazards are present.
Prevent Blindness America estimates 90 percent of eye injuries are preventable simply with the use of proper protective equipment. Current Military Combat Eye Protection devices represent over 50 years of research and development. All that work becomes useless when a Soldier suffers an eye injury because he/she was not wearing the proper protection. The Approved Protective Eyewear List shows the tested and approved MCEP devices and may be viewed at: https://peosoldier.army.mil/equipment/eyewear/. The eyewear on the APEL meets and goes beyond the impact requirements for standard industrial safety glasses by 4--6 times, depending on whether the eyewear is a spectacle or a goggle.
"Preserve Your Sight to Fight." Wear your MCEP whenever an eye hazard is present!