Winter 2019 edition of HealthLINK Magazine.*
Regular eye exams are the first step toward saving your vision.
You can take steps to protect your eyes from major vision-impairing conditions—such
as glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.
A comprehensive eye exam helps your eye doctor find problems early, when
treatments to prevent vision loss work best, says Eric Steuer, MD, PhD,
ophthalmologist who specializes in retinal surgery. Here’s what
to know about these common eye conditions:
Glaucoma: Gradually increasing pressure inside the eyeball can damage the optic
nerve, leading to the loss of peripheral (side) vision first and then
central vision. Early-stage glaucoma has no symptoms, so eye exams are
crucial. Eyedrops and surgery to lower eye pressure can prevent further
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): Sharp, central vision is lost with
AMD, due to thinning of the center of the light-sensing retina at the
back of your eyes (called “dry” AMD) or when blood vessels
grow under this area, then leak and scar (“wet” AMD). If you
have dry AMD, your doctor can recommend a specific nutritional supplement
that can lessen the risk of progression of the condition. For wet AMD,
several injectable prescription drugs can help.
Diabetic retinopathy: The leading cause of adult blindness in the U.S., this condition causes
damage to the blood vessels of the retina. Controlling blood sugar and
blood pressure, along with injections and surgery, can help.
What is a comprehensive eye exam?
During a comprehensive eye exam, an ophthalmologist or qualified optometrist
will ask you about your vision, overall health, family medical history,
and medication use. He or she will check your vision by asking you to
read an eye chart. But that’s not all. Your doctor will check your
peripheral vision, evaluate how well your eyes move, measure the pressure
inside your eyes, and examine the front of your eyes—your eyelids,
cornea, iris, and lens. Your doctor will also put drops in your eyes to
dilate or widen your pupils for a closer look inside the eye, examining
your retina and optic nerve to check for signs of disease.
Most people should have a baseline eye exam at age 40, Dr. Steuer says.
Start sooner if you have diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history
of eye conditions; if you notice changes in your vision; or if recommended
by your physician. Based on the results of your exam, your doctor will
discuss how frequently you should have exams in the future. After age
65, it’s important to have a comprehensive eye exam every one to
two years, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
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