Often we take good vision for granted. If you have ever had a problem with your eyes causing decreased vision, you learn quickly to appreciate good sight.
Those who have never had a problem with their eyes, don't realize how much can go wrong.
Cornea- the window we look through on the front surface of the eye
Abrasion (scratched cornea) can be painful and cause decreased vision
Ulcer (infected abrasion often associated with contact lens wear) painful, red, blurry vision
Degeneration/Dystrophy- there are several degenerative conditions of the cornea that cause blurry vision and increase in glare/halos around lights.
Lens- the focusing lens in the eye
Cataract- (clouding of the lens) is often an age related change to the lens causing reduced night vision and needing more lighting to read well. But cataracts can happen at any age.
Changes in the lens affect our glasses prescription as we age. This is why those over age 40 need reading glasses.
Glaucoma- a condition causing damage to the optic nerve
This is one of the biggest reasons regular eye exams are critical as we age. Glaucoma often doesn't have any symptoms until it is severe. I compare it to high cholesterol. You don't feel high cholesterol. You can have high cholesterol for decades without any problems. Until you have a stroke or a heart attack. But if your doctor tests and treats your high cholesterol early, you can reduce your risk for a stroke. Same with glaucoma. We screen for this every year and can monitor for signs of glaucoma. If we catch it early, we can prevent vision loss. But by the time you know you have glaucoma, you have already suffered from irreversible vision loss due to damage to the optic nerve.
Macular Degeneration- a condition causing damage to the macula (central portion of the retina) and loss of central vision. This can be severe enough to cause you to struggle with reading. The earlier this is caught, there is a critical stage where intervention can reduce vision loss.
Retinal degeneration, macular edema, hypertensive retinopathy, diabetic retinopathy, epiretinal membrane, macular hole, iritis, uveitis, episcleritis, keratitis, keratoconus, dry eye syndrome, allergic conjunctivitis, and herpes simplex/herpes zoster ophthalmicus are all potential eye problems.
The eye is so complex, that there are multiple specialties just within the eye field.
- Optometrists are doctors who specialize in primary eye care. Routine vision exams, contact lens exams, and medical evaluations and treatment of medical conditions of the eyes not requiring surgery.
- General ophthalmologist- medical doctors who specialize in medical care of the eyes. Often these doctors do cataract surgery and other basic eye surgeries.
- Glaucoma specialist- medical doctor that specializes in ophthalmology and further specializes in glaucoma surgeries.
- Cornea specialist- medical doctor that specializes in ophthalmology and further specializes in cornea care and surgeries involving the cornea.
- Retina specialist- medical doctor that specializes in ophthalmology and further specializes in retina care and surgeries involving the retina.
- Neuro-ophthalmologist- medical doctor that specializes in ophthalmology and further specializes in neurology and neurological problems affecting the eyes.
- Oculoplastic surgeon- medical doctor that specializes in ophthalmology and further specializes in plastic surgery related to the eyes (lid surgeries).
- Pediatric ophthalmologist- medical doctor that specializes in ophthalmology and further specializes in pediatric eye care and pediatric surgeries including strabismus surgery.
- Vision Therapy specialist- optometrist who focuses on vision therapy and issues related to the focusing system of the eyes.
What other organ in our body has that many specialists? If the eye is that complex that it requires that many specialists, then going YEARS without an eye exam shouldn't make sense!
So let's give THANKS for great vision and make sure we get our eyes checked regularly in order to ensure we keep our great vision! And don't forget these tips to keep your eyes healthy:
- UV protection
- Safety glasses when doing activities that could injure the eyes (sports, welding, construction, mowing...)
- Consume Vitamin A, C, E, Zinc, Lutein, Zeaxanthin, Omega 3 (EPA/DHA/ALA) to keep the eyes healthy.
- Get your eyes checked regularly!
- First eye screening by age 3
- Routine vision exam yearly throughout school years
- Routine vision exam every few years as an adult until age 40 unless medical problems are found.
- Dilated medical exam as recommended by your eye doctor.
- Yearly medical eye exams from age 60 and over even if you haven't been diagnosed with medical problems.