A study finds almost half of all Iowans either wear glasses or contacts, but many more have vision problems that remain undiagnosed as they haven’t gotten check-ups. Dr. Rachel Bishop of the National Eye Institute says regular visits to an eye care professional are even more important for Iowans with medical conditions.

“If people have diabetes, they should be seeing an eye doctor at least once a year, that’s extremely important,” Dr. Bishop says. “We also see changes from high blood pressure. We can see changes that would suggest a person is at risk for stroke.”

Other common eye ailments include glaucoma, macular degeneration and cataracts. Some eye problems can lead to vision loss or blindness but Bishop says early detection may be able to save your sight. She says a vision screening may make life a little difficult in the short term, but it’s worth it.

“The dilating drops open the pupil and they leave the vision a little bit blurry for a few hours and a little more sensitive to light for a few hours,” Bishop says. “We feel that’s a small inconvenience compared with the benefit of insuring there are no diseases in the eye that need attention.”

She says it’s also important to take steps to protect the eye from injury, especially during the busy months of summer.

“Wearing eye protection when we’re outside doing sports, working in the yard, working under the car, that’s very important,” she says. “Wearing UV protection sunglasses is extremely important. We know the sun damages not only the skin but eye tissues.”

Bishop offers the same tips for keeping your eyes healthy as for your heart — a good diet and exercise. A study finds eyesight is the one sense Americans fear losing the most, yet many people neglect regular eye check-ups.