Early Detection Is The Best Way To Protect Vision
by Dr. Joseph P Walker
Originally Published in the News-Press on June 17, 2014
Question: My vision seems normal. Why do I need an eye exam?
Answer: There are many eye diseases that are completely undetectable until the vision is permanently damaged. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, there are specific guidelines as to what age and how often vision should be screened:
- Infants / children / teenagers:
A pediatrician is typically equipped to perform appropriate vision screening during routine physical examinations.
- Adult recommendations:
In the 20s, at least once; in the 30s, at least twice; age 40 and above, a baseline eye exam with an eye care professional is recommended. Based on this exam, your eye care professional will recommend how often you need to have followup eye exams. Also, the adult recommendation is any time an eye problem is suspected.
Some examples of diseases that can sneak up on you are cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and age-related macular degeneration. Systemic problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases and taking certain medications can have a negative impact on your vision.
Question: My eye doctor asks me a lot of questions — some of them seem unnecessary. What is included in an eye examination and why?
Answer: Depending on what your health history and symptoms are, here are a few of the tests that may be performed:
- Complete medical / medication history. Eye health is directly connected to general health.
- Chief complaint / symptoms. Finding out what your symptoms are and how long they have been present is important in diagnosing and creating a treatment plan.
- Vision. You will be asked to read letters or figures on a chart so your eye doctor will be able to determine if there is a deficiency and also to establish baseline vision for future exam comparisons.
- Eye pressure. If the eye pressure is outside normal limits, you may be at risk for vision loss.
- Visual field. Sidevision may be checked as part of a routine exam or if your doctor suspects peripheral vision loss.
- Dilated fundoscopy. Dilation of the pupils is vital to thoroughly examining the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue layer that is responsible for sight. If damaged, vision can be permanently lost.
- Impression/plan. With all of the information gathered, your eye doctor will discuss your diagnosis with you and make recommendations for glasses/contacts, treatment, or further testing, if indicated.
Question: I’ve been diagnosed with an eye disease. Why can’t I just get new glasses or contacts to correct my vision?
Answer: It would be great (and much easier on the eye care community) if it were that simple. Your eye is built just like a camera. A camera has a lens in the front that refracts and focuses light onto the film. Your eye has glasses/contacts and your eye’s natural lens to refract and focus light onto the retina. A camera has film in the back that produces a picture. Your eye has the retina and the optic nerve that produce a picture. If the film in your camera is bad, no matter how much you focus the lens, you will never get a good picture. Early detection and treatment of eye problems is the best way to keep healthy vision throughout life. In many cases, blindness and vision loss are preventable.
Dr. Joseph P Walker is a board-certified ophthalmologist specializing in diseases of the retina and vitreous and is the founder of Retina Consultants of Southwest Florida with offices in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Bonita Springs, Naples and Port Charlotte. The Fort Myers office is located at 6901 International Center Blvd. Call (239) 939-4323 or visit eye.md