This article which appears in the December Healthwise section of The Citizen, answers many common questions about Adult Vision. See our previous article on Children’s Vision and look for our January article on Senior’s Vision.
I see great, why should I have an eye exam?
Even if you have perfect vision, most organizations, like the American Optometric Association feel that an adult should have an eye exam at least every 3 years. Once you reach your 40’s exams are recommended a minimum of every two years. Those 50 years of age or older should have an eye exam annually, as should people who wear corrective lenses and/or have a family history of eye disease. Diabetics must have an exam with dilated pupils and special photographs annually (see below for more on diabetes and the eye).
The reason that even those of us with perfect vision should still have periodic eye exams is that many eye diseases have no symptoms early in their course.
Glaucoma, for example, is often called the “sneak thief of sight” because millions are suffering from this condition with no symptoms. It is not until one has lost 80% or more of their vision that symptoms develop. Unfortunately, any vision you have lost cannot be recovered. That makes early diagnosis essential in the treatment of this disease.
Other conditions like Macular Degeneration (AMD) can sometimes be prevented or at least delayed. Often the precursor to this condition can be seen 20 years before AMD begins to affect vision. With appropriate nutritional therapy, research shows that we can reduce the likelihood of a person developing AMD by up to 30% or more.
I have diabetes, what should I do to protect my eyes?
Diabetes is the number one cause of vision loss in Americans under age 65, and number 2 across all ages groups. While most people think of diabetes as a blood sugar disease, in the eye we are concerned about changes to blood vessels that can result in hemorrhaging (bleeding) inside the eye. This results in damage to the retina (which can be thought of as similar to the film in a camera). This damage can result in permanently blurred vision or even total blindness if left untreated. Early diagnosis and treatment can help preserve good vision for life. Annual eye exams with special photographs of the retina are imperative in preserving sight for people with diabetes.
I’m in my 40’s why can’t I see up close anymore?
We all lose the ability to focus up close. This process begins in our twenties, and typically becomes a noticeable problem in our early to mid 40’s. This loss of focusing, called presbyopia, diminishes our ability to see clearly up close through our distance prescription. Presbyopia is a natural process, it is also a progressive process, so we tend to have greater and greater difficulty with near tasks as we move through our 40’s and into our early 50’s. By our early to mid-50’s, the progression stops, but we never regain our ability to focus up close.
This often means a transition to bifocal glasses (often called progressive lenses) or necessitates the need for reading glasses over our contact lenses. The good news is that with the new digitally surfaced, HD style progressive lenses, it is easier than ever to make a successful transition to multifocal glasses. At Spectrum Eyecare, we are even having good success with people who were previously unable to use this type of eyeglasses lens.
I wear contacts and replace them online, why should I bother with an annual exam?
Contact lenses (CL) are a prescription device that when cared for appropriately are very safe.
However, as we age our eyes change, often requiring a change in the type of contact lens worn, solutions used or the replacement schedule of the lenses. That is why all contact lens prescriptions have an expiration date. Since CL use increases the risk of dry eye, abnormal blood vessel growth and serious eye infections it is critical to have regular, annual checks of your eyes and contacts. This is true regardless of your age. However, our eyes become less resilient as we age requiring even greater care in monitoring the health of our eyes as we age.
At many leading practices, including Spectrum Eyecare, it is understood that you can get your contacts from many sources, so CL’s are priced very competitively with mail order and big box retailers. The important thing is to have an annual exam and to replace your contacts as advised by your eye doctor.
Is it safe to sleep in my contacts?
Sleeping in contact lenses is the single greatest cause of complications among those who wear lenses. Even in the safest materials, contact lens over-wear causes at least a tenfold increase in eye infection and other dangerous complications. Teaching and reinforcing the dangers of contact lens over-wear is one of Dr. Henahan’s top priorities.
What type of contact lens is best for me?
For most, soft disposable lenses represent the best balance of comfort, easy care, clear vision and safety. For some people, disposable lenses are not an option due to the nature of their prescription, but other lens options do exist which allow us to fit almost any child in contacts. Advances in bifocal contact lens technology have been slow, so most people struggle to succeed with this type of lens, despite what the TV commercials want you to believe.
What about LASIK?
LASIK eye surgery is an excellent option for many people with glasses or contacts who wish to eliminate their dependence on glasses or contacts. However, one must be at least 18 years of age to undergo LASIK. Furthermore, it is important that the prescription is not changing.
It is also important to understand that LASIK does nothing to prevent the loss of focusing capability that afflicts those of us in our 40’s.
NEXT MONTH: Eye FAQ’s for Seniors
Dr. John Henahan is a fellowship trained doctor of optometry practicing and living right here in Peachtree City with his wife and two sons. You may call his office at (770) 487-0667 or visit him on the web at www.speceye.com.