Unfortunately, it's common for people to overlook their eye health. In fact, (opens in a new tab), 40% of adults who have a high risk of vision loss haven't had an eye exam in the past year. Routine health check-ups are often forgotten in this way; after all, if there aren't any signs of a problem, there probably isn't a problem, right?
Unfortunately, your health isn't this clear-cut, vision included. Plenty of eye diseases and conditions don't show symptoms until it's too late, and even an outdated vision prescription can cause issues.
Your Vision Is Important
If it's been a few years since your last eye exam, there's a good chance your vision has changed. As we age, it's common for our visual acuity to worsen over time, but the change takes place so slowly that it can be difficult to notice. With routine eye exams, you can be sure that your glasses and contact lens prescriptions are up-to-date, which can help you avoid uncomfortable side effects.
For instance, a person who needs an updated prescription may struggle with blurry vision, frequent headaches, and eye fatigue. This is because an old pair of glasses or contact lenses may cause you to squint as your eyes work harder to see clearly. In addition, if you wear old glasses that you bought with a scratch-resistant or UV-resistant coating, it's possible that those additional layers have disintegrated, making them difficult to properly clean.
With a simple visual acuity test, a routine part of every eye exam, your eye doctor can determine if you need a new prescription and help you see clearly again. Plus, there are other ways a comprehensive eye exam can help support your eye health, too!
Routine Eye Exams Can Catch Problems Early
With most medical issues, your body clues you into your condition. For instance, if a person has a cold, they'll be able to tell. Between sniffling, sneezing, coughing, and dealing with a sore throat, they'll know that it's time to take some medicine and help their body fight back against the infection.
When it comes to your eyes, however, you may not even realize that there's a problem. In fact, many eye diseases don't show any symptoms until they have already caused significant damage. That's why it's important to schedule eye exams regularly, even if you don't think there's a problem with your vision, and even if you don't have a family history of any eye disease.
Routine eye exams produce advanced images of the interior of your eye, which can help identify any potential issues before they become serious. With an early diagnosis and prompt treatment, your eye doctor can help stop or slow the progression of a problem before it causes permanent harm to your eyesight.
Common Eye Diseases That An Eye Exam Can Detect
Unlike vision screenings, which only check your visual acuity, a comprehensive eye exam can detect the presence of a number of issues. During your exam, your eye doctor will to help determine the health of your eyes. These tests look for a wide range of common eye diseases and conditions, including:
- Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that affect the optic nerve, or the part of your eye that sends images to your brain. It is most commonly caused by high pressure inside the eye, which can damage the optic nerve and lead to irreversible vision loss, including blindness. In the early stages of the disease, most people won't experience any symptoms, making regular eye exams a necessity.
- A cataract describes the clouding of the eye's internal lens, which affects how much light can reach your retina. This can cause blurry vision and make it difficult to perform everyday tasks. While cataracts naturally develop as you age, they can be treated with simple eye surgery if needed.
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a progressive eye disease that affects the macula, or the center of your retina. Though it is very manageable in its early stages, the disease can eventually lead to severe vision loss. Unfortunately, most people fail to recognize the disease until it is too late. With regular eye exams, your optometrist can help diagnose the condition early and provide treatment to slow its progression.
- Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that affects the blood vessels in your retina. Over time, the disease can cause vision loss and blindness. But if it's detected by your eye doctor and treated early, the condition can be managed before it causes significant damage.
- Keratoconus is an eye disorder that causes the normally round shape of your cornea to become more cone-shaped. This leads to distorted vision and can even cause blindness, though in its early stages, it may only cause slightly blurred vision. Regular comprehensive eye exams can help diagnose the disease and provide treatment to stop further damage.
- Retinal detachment occurs when the thin membrane that lines your eye's interior, the retina, is lifted or pulled from its normal position. It's considered a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment to prevent permanent vision loss. Typically, it's painless, though a person will experience flashes of light or a shower of eye floaters. Eye exams are the best defense against retinal detachment, as they give your eye doctor an opportunity to examine the retina, check for signs of distress, and treat the issue before a detachment occurs.
Other Health Issues Your Eye Doctor Will See First
They say eyes are the window to the soul, but they can also be a window into your overall health. In addition to spotting and diagnosing eye disease, your eye doctor will have the opportunity to detect a wide range of health issues, including diabetes and high blood pressure. These tests are quick and painless, yet can provide invaluable information about your overall health.
Take diabetes, for example. Diabetes is a disease that affects the body's ability to produce or use insulin, which in turn can lead to a range of health issues, including high blood sugar. High blood sugar levels are known to cause diabetic retinopathy, as discussed above, causing damage to the blood vessels in your eye. In some cases, your eye doctor might spot this damage before your PCP is able to recognize other signs of diabetes.
The same is true for high blood pressure, another condition that can be detected by your eye doctor during a comprehensive eye exam. High blood pressure can damage the small blood vessels in your eyes, leading to vision loss. Again, eye doctors are known to spot this issue before other healthcare providers do.
Sleep apnea is yet another health issue that can be spotted by your eye doctor. This condition, in which a person stops breathing for short periods during sleep, is known to cause damage and vision loss if undetected and untreated. This is because sleep apnea can lead to low oxygen, fluctuating eye pressure, and inflammation, which can cause eye diseases like glaucoma. Though (opens in a new tab), many go undiagnosed.
Luckily, your eye doctor can see signs of sleep apnea during an eye exam, ultimately helping you get the treatment you need to maintain good health and avoid vision loss.
Expert Diagnosis And Treatment At Everett & Hurite
Though you can't change your genetics or stop yourself from aging, there are still steps you can take to prevent glaucoma or its progression. In fact, maintaining your overall health is a great way to protect your eye health. By eating well, staying active, and avoiding smoking, you can help keep your eyes healthy.
The key to glaucoma prevention, however, is regular eye exams. During these tests, your eye doctor can check for signs of glaucoma and make sure your IOP is at a safe level. Early detection is key to protecting your vision and the sooner you get checked, the better!
Treatment Options at Everett & Hurite
If there's one thing we want all of our patients to know, it's that eye exams aren't only for when you're having issues with your vision. Comprehensive eye exams can help identify and diagnose a range of eye conditions, as well as potentially detect other health issues even when you haven't been experiencing any symptoms. Regular eye exams should be a part of your yearly healthcare regimen, as they are essential to protecting your overall health and vision.
At Everett & Hurite, our experienced eye doctors take pride in providing the highest quality of care. Between early detection, final diagnosis, and expert treatment, our team is here to ensure your eyes stay healthy. No matter if you just need an updated prescription or you're seeking surgical intervention for a serious eye disorder, we'll be here to help!