Many people dislike seeking medical care for any reason. But when it comes to changes in your vision, do yourself a favor and get to your eye doctor. Early intervention may allow you to avoid complications that can occur if you wait.
But why wait? There are ways to take care of your eyes before changes occur. One way to do that is to get into the habit of protecting them, whether you are at work or at play.
In general, men suffer more eye accidents than women. You should wear eye protectors around power equipment and while playing sports, such as racquetball or squash. Eye injuries can also occur when doing something simple like hammering nails. Unfortunately most men do not think about wearing eye protection for these things.
The three primary types of eye protection—safety glasses, safety goggles, and face shields—are sometimes worn in combination.
For any activity that involves chipping, grinding, riveting, sanding, banging, or masonry, safety goggles should always be worn. Experts also say that handling chemicals, including lawn chemicals, requires goggles. The best goggles are those where the sides touch the skin all around, as particles or chemicals can still fly up under glasses that are open on the sides. A face shield is often required if there are large flying objects or lots of debris.
One of the most consistent and predictable aging phenomena usually occurs in your 40s when you begin having difficulty focusing on close images, such as a book. You must either hold printed matter at arm's length, or if nearsighted , take off your glasses entirely to clearly see what you are reading. This phenomenon is termed presbyopia . The reason for the vision inconsistency is due to changes in the eye from normal aging. The lens of the eye becomes less pliable, and thus is unable to focus on close images. If you have always had normal vision, you may need a pair of reading glasses. They are inexpensive and available in most retail locations. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, your current prescription may need an adjustment. Other treatments include contact lenses and surgery. Talk to your eye doctor about the best options for you.
Eye doctors also screen for disorders that, when caught early, can avert major problems later on. Ask your doctor for guidelines specific for your individual situation. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends a comprehensive eye examination as follows for healthy adults with low risk factors for eye disease:
You should be screened more often, or as directed by your eye doctor, if you:
Cautionary Note : If you currently have eye symptoms, you should call your provider immediately for an evaluation. In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
For most healthy men, glaucoma screening should start right around age 40. Screening should start sooner if you have a family history of this condition or diabetes. Glaucoma increases pressure inside the eye and puts unhealthy pressure on the optic nerve. Moreover, there are several different types of the disorder. Left untreated, glaucoma can lead to blindness. It is important to keep up with regular screenings because most people do not know they have glaucoma until diagnosed during a comprehensive eye examination. Although pressure can be managed with medications and surgery, damage that has already occurred cannot be reversed. Glaucoma progression can often be halted with prompt medical treatment.
Men with diabetes are also at increased risk for diabetic retinopathy (DR). Diabetes causes blood vessels within the eye to leak. DR is a progressive disease and is a leading cause of blindness in the United States. Getting regular check-ups to catch developing DR, along with proper glucose management, will help reduce your risk.
Cataracts —a clouding in the lens of the eye—usually come along about, or just after, the age of retirement, experts say. The first signs of a cataract is a clouding or lessening of vision. The condition may first make itself known as a glare at night or trouble with oncoming headlights while driving. Or, a light bulb may be seen as a display of stars. Because cataracts are slowly progressive, many people do not even know that they have been losing vision. Cataract surgery is usually an elective procedure done to improve visual sharpness. Surgeons remove the cloudy lens in the eye and replace it with a man-made lens.
Which type of vision care practitioner should you see?
Ophthalmologists are physicians who specialize in the medical and surgical treatment of eye disorders. Ophthalmologists attend medical school, followed by a one year internship and at least three years of an ophthalmology residency program. They check eyes for vision problems, diseases, and abnormalities. They perform eye surgery, prescribe medication, and usually write prescriptions for glasses and contact lenses.
Optometrists are not medical doctors, but hold a Doctor of Optometry degree. They perform examinations for glasses and contacts. They also diagnose and treat some eye disorders. The scope of practice of an optometrist varies from state to state, depending on that state’s laws. Some states allow optometrists to perform laser surgery or prescribe certain medications. Some optometrists also practice visual therapy to counter certain eye problems.
Opticians have less training than ophthalmologists or optometrists and cannot write prescriptions. They fit, supply, and adjust glasses, using a prescription from an ophthalmologist or an optometrist.
American Academy of Ophthalmology
Glaucoma Research Foundation
Canadian Association of Optometrists
Canadian Ophthalmological Society
Cataract. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 30, 2013. Accessed January 8, 2014.
Common eye disorders. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/visionhealth/basic_information/eye_disorders.htm. Updated April 23. 2013. Accessed January 8, 2014.
Diabetic retinopathy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 16, 2013. Accessed January 8, 2014.
Exam frequency. American Academy of Ophthalmology website. Available at: http://www.aao.org/theeyeshaveit/screening/exam-frequency.cfm. Accessed January 8, 2014.
Eye safety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/eye. Updated July 29. 2013. Accessed January 8, 2014.
Open-angle glaucoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 11, 2013. Accessed January 8, 2014.
Last reviewed January 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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