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The Health of Your Vision is Important

Why Vision Screenings Are No Substitute for a Complete Eye Exam

Vision screenings are limited eye tests that help identify people who are at risk for vision problems. These are the brief vision tests performed by the school nurse, a pediatrician, other health care providers or volunteers.

 

The eye test that you take when you get your driver's license renewed is an example of a vision screening.

 

Depending on who is performing the test and where the test is given, vision screenings may include tests for blur, muscle coordination and/or common eye diseases.

 

Keep in mind that a vision screening can indicate that you need to get your eyes checked, but it does not serve as a substitute for a comprehensive eye exam.

 

A comprehensive eye examination is performed by an eye doctor and includes careful testing of all aspects of your vision. Based on the results of your exam, we will then recommend a treatment plan for your individual needs.

 

Remember, only an Optometrist or Ophthalmologist can provide a comprehensive eye exam -- family physicians and pediatricians are not fully trained to do this, and studies have shown that they can miss important vision problems that require treatment.

Eye exams for you and your child:

Think you don't need to see an eye doctor because your vision is fine? Think again.

Eye exams aren't only for people with poor vision. They're an important way of detecting eye problems before you have symptoms. Eye doctors can also catch other health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and many more systemic and eye diseases early.

 

Routine eye exams are important -- regardless of your age or your physical health.  Eye doctors often are the first health care professionals to detect chronic systemic diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

 

As a parent, you may wonder whether your preschooler has a vision problem or when you should schedule your child's first eye exam.

 

Eye exams for children are extremely important, because 5 to 10 percent of preschoolers and 25 percent of school-aged children have vision problems. Early identification of a child's vision problem can be crucial because children often are more responsive to treatment when problems are diagnosed early.

 

Remember that appropriate vision testing at an early age is vital to insure your child has the visual skills he or she needs to perform well in school.

 

A child who is unable to see print or view a blackboard can become easily frustrated, leading to poor academic performance. Some vision problems, such as lazy eye, are best treated if they are detected and corrected as early as possible while the child's vision system is still developing.

How Often Should You Go to the Eye Doctor?

Risk factors for adults include:

  • A family history of eye disease (glaucoma, macular degeneration, etc.)
  • Diabetes or high blood pressure
  • A visually demanding occupation or one that may pose hazards to the eyes.
  • Taking prescription or non-prescription drugs that may have visual or eye-related side effects
  • Previous eye injuries or eye surgery

 

Also, anyone who wears contact lenses should have annual eye exams, according to the AOA.

 

If you have any doubt how often you (or your children or parents) should have your eyes examined, ask your eye care professional for guidance.

 

When else should you see the eye doctor? If you have any sudden symptoms -- such as sudden vision change, eye pain, or severe irritation -- see an eye doctor right away.

 

Eye Conditions

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Children need their vision checked at birth, 6 months, 3 years, and before entering grade school.

Everyone needs eye exams. Different medical organizations have different schedules. The American Optometric Association suggests:

Adults: To maintain a lifetime of healthy vision, the AOA recommends a comprehensive eye exam every two years for adults ages 18 to 60, and annual exams for seniors age 61 and older.

"At risk" adults should have more frequent exams.

If you have diabetes, regular visits to your eye doctor for regular exams are important to avoid eye problems. High blood sugar (glucose) increases the risk of eye problems from diabetes. In fact, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults age 20 to 74.

If you have eye problems and diabetes, don't buy a new pair of glasses as soon as you notice you have blurred vision. It could just be a temporary eye problem that develops rapidly with diabetes and is caused by high blood sugar levels.

High blood sugar in diabetes causes the lens of the eye to swell, which changes your ability to see. To correct this kind of eye problem, you need to get your blood sugar back into the target range.  It may take as long as three months after your blood sugar is well controlled for your vision to fully get back to normal eye.  The increase in pressure can damage nerves and the blood vessels in the eye, causing changes in vision.

Diabetes:

A cataract is a clouding or fogging of the normally clear lens of the eye. The lens is what allows us to see and focus on an image just like a camera. Although anyone can get cataracts, people with diabetes get these eye problems at an earlier age than most and the condition progresses more rapidly than in people without diabetes.

If you have a cataract, there is a cloudy area in the lens of your eye that results in the inability to focus light, and your vision is impaired. Symptoms of this eye problem in diabetes include blurred or glared vision.

During cataract surgery, the cloudy lens is removed or cleaned out and replaced by a clear man-made lens.

Cataracts:

When fluid inside the eye does not drain properly, it can lead to excess pressure inside the eye.  The increase in pressure can damage nerves and the blood vessels in the eye, causing changes in vision.

 

Treatment of open-angle glaucoma -- the most common form of glaucoma -- requires lowering the eye's pressure by increasing the drainage of aqueous humor or decreasing the production of the fluid. Medications can accomplish both of these goals.

With open-angle glaucoma, there may be no symptoms of this eye problem at all until the disease is very advanced and there is significant vision loss. In the less common form of this eye problem, symptoms can include headaches, eye aches or pain, blurred vision, watering eyes, halos around lights, and loss of vision.

 

Glaucoma is a disease that you need to watch out for. It is called the "silent thief of sight" and can occur without any symptoms at all. This disease is an optic nerve disease and can affect a wide array of people. The optic nerve is responsible for carrying images to our brain, and Glaucoma leads to blindness. With early detection, the effects and damage of Glaucoma can be prevented.

Glaucoma:

  • Diabetes
  • 45 years of age or older
  • Myopia
  • Hyperopia
  • Low / high blood pressure
  • Family history
  • Eye injury
  • Ocular pressure changes

Glaucoma Risk Factors:

Floaters are another common eye problem that people have and this can lead to problems with the eye. Floaters are considered specks, strings, or flashes that occur in your vision. In general, floaters are not dangerous, unless they appear to be cloudy or dark in nature. This may indicate a tear in the retina which can lead to blindness.

Floaters / Spots:

  • Shower of floaters
  • Cobweb floaters
  • Dark curtain like appearance
  • Flashes of light
  • Specks
  • Threads

Floater Cautions:

Cataract Floaters/Spot Diabetic Retinopathy glaucoma

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over age 60. It occurs when the small central portion of the retina, known as the macula, deteriorates. The retina is the light-sensing nerve tissue at the back of the eye. Because the disease develops as a person ages, it is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Although macular degeneration is almost never a totally blinding condition, it can be a source of significant visual disability.

Macular degeneration may be hereditary, meaning it can be passed on from parents to children. If someone in your family has or had the condition you may be at higher risk for developing macular degeneration.

Smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and being light skinned, female, and having a light eye color are also risk factors for macular degeneration.

A diet rich in green, leafy vegetables and fish may reduce the risk of AMD getting worse.  It is also recommended taking fish oil and specific supplements aimed for reducing the effects of AMD.

Macular Degeneration:

Staring at computer monitors, smartphones, and video game screens may result in strained, dry, and tired eyes. Luckily, using these devices does not seem to have permanent effects. To prevent eye strain, adjust your computer monitor so that it's 2 feet in front of you. Use desk lighting to reduce glare. Take a break every hour. Spend a few minutes looking at something much farther away than the monitor.

Using computers daily can also cause dry eyes, so be sure to use artificial tears on a regular basis throughout the day.

Computers and Eye Strain:

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