The Importance of Being Seen - 09/12/18
Regular eye exams are every bit as important as an annual check-up with your primary care doctor, or getting your teeth cleaned. For some, an eye exam every two or even three years is all they need, but for others, a yearly eye exam is the best way to make sure their eyes are well cared-for and their vision is as clear as it can be.
For many patients, annual eye exams are an important part of their ongoing eye care. Often, these are routine exams to ensure that the patient’s eyes remain healthy and that no concerns are developing. Sometimes a patient shows signs of sun damage that their doctor would like to check every year to make sure there have been no changes. Other times, annual eye exams are the best way for an eye doctor to follow a medical condition that can affect the eyes. Patients with progressing Cataracts, early Macular Degeneration, Glaucoma, and Diabetes are often seen at least once a year to make sure no further treatment is necessary.
Generally, a patient having a routine eye exam will have their vision tested, their eye pressure taken, their medications and other information confirmed, and will be given the opportunity to raise any concerns they wish to address. The patient may also need drops to dilate the pupil, or have images taken of their retinas (the backs of their eyes) to help the doctor in assessing their eye health. The patient will then see the doctor for an exam and a discussion of any symptoms they may be having.
If a patient does need dilating drop, their vision will be blurry at near, but usually not significantly affected in the distance. On a bright sunny day, sunglasses will help as dilated eyes are very light-sensitive. The effects of dilation should wear off after a few hours, although the exact time varies from patient to patient depending on a variety of factors, including the color of the eyes, and the patient’s age. If you do need an annual exam, there is a good chance you may need to be dilated, so keep that in mind when you are making plans for the day of your appointment!
A patient who is being followed for a specific complaint may require more specialized testing. A patient being followed for Cataracts will need a test to determine how those Cataracts are affecting their vision. Patients with Macular Degeneration will need to have images taken of their macula – the place at the back of the eye responsible for central vision. This will show whether their Macular Degeneration is stable or progressing. Patients with Glaucoma will need images of their optic nerves, which are responsible for transmitting visual information from the eye to the brain, and which become damaged if their Glaucoma is not well controlled. They will also need to take a test of their peripheral vision to make sure there has been no side vision loss.
Diabetic patients also require annual exams, even if they have no eye symptoms. A patient with Diabetes is at risk for damage to small blood vessels, such as the small blood vessels in the back of the eye. These vessels can become damaged and leak, causing visual problems for the patient, and so any damage needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Regularly scheduled eye exams ensure that any blood vessels that may become damaged are found and treated quickly. This is why it is so important for patients with Diabetes to be dilated. Dilation allows the doctor to get the best possible view of the blood vessels in the eye. The doctor can determine whether these blood vessels are healthy, and can report back to the patient’s primary care doctor or endocrinologist. Diabetic eye exams are also important diagnostic tools for the team of doctors treating a patient’s Diabetes, as the eye is the only place in the body where the blood vessels can be seen directly, and thus is the first place in which signs of damage begin to show.
Many conditions show early signs in the retinal area of the eye. That is why eye doctors often discover signs of hypertension, high cholesterol, Multiple Sclerosis, and even tumors before the patient is aware or bothered by symptoms. Any disease affecting the circulatory system may show up in the tiny vessels of the retina. Changes or damage to the optic nerves can indicate concerns to be addressed. Even ruling out eye problems can allow primary care doctors and specialists to redirect the search for a cause for patients’ symptoms. All of this information can be obtained from regular dilated eye exams.
Eye exams are important whether you are experiencing visual problems or not. Call the office anytime to schedule an eye exam appointment with our doctors. We look forward to seeing you soon!