Keeping Aging Eyes In Focus

Anthony Craparo has always had good vision and assumed he'd know if anything was wrong. He learned otherwise when grit in his face sent him to an eye doctor.

"It really was something that happened that was a blessing, because without that I know for a fact I would have been blind," Craparo said.

His eyes hadn't been damaged, but there was bad news: The doctor discovered glaucoma.

"It's scary when somebody tells you that something's wrong with you," he said.

Glaucoma usually has no symptoms until it's severe. Only 45 when diagnosed, Craparo hadn't seen an eye doctor in years.

That's why the American Academy of Ophthalmology now wants everyone to get a baseline eye exam at age 40 to stop what they call a pending epidemic of age-related eye disease, reports CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook.

"The vast majority of Americans don't think they're at risk for eye disease at all, in spite of the fact that more than half of Americans will have an eye disease by the time their life is over," according to Marguerite McDonald, M.D.

The diseases they're most concerned with can ultimately lead to blindness.

They include glaucoma, where pressure can damage or kill the optic nerve; macular degeneration, which can lead to a blind spot; diabetic retinopathy, which can cause specks to interfere with vision; and cataracts, which can make everything look cloudy.

Risk factors also include family history, sun exposure, smoking and race.

"Very few African-Americans, Asians or Hispanics realize that they are at much higher risk for say, glaucoma, because of their ethnicity," says McDonald.

Craparo's advice: "Get those checkups."

Medication now controls Craparo's glaucoma. For him, seeing is believing — in regular exams.