Following Up: The Annual Eye Exam

Like any thoughtful healthcare organization, we like to follow up on the wellness of our patients.

When was the last time you went to your local optometrist? If your answer is, “I see fine” or “I have never encountered any problems with my sight, so why should I have to go” then you may be ignoring complications unbeknownst to you. Eye exams are not just for correcting refractive error (i.e. nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism). An exam may find that you are not seeing as well as you believe, but a vital part of this assessment is to seek out conditions and diseases that are frequently silent. This means symptoms of eye disease go unnoticed or unrecognized.

When you go for an eye exam, your eye specialist will evaluate a number of conditions in a relatively short amount of time. After the doctor checks your visual acuity and your prescription, the doctor will look for a condition known as Amblyopia. Amblyopia occurs when your brain is not communicating with one eye correctly resulting in vision impairment in that one eye. Strabismus (crossed-eyes) can cause Amblyopia. This can lead to impairment in both visual development and life development, especially in adolescents. Eye exams are imperative for children as they are constantly learning their environment and receiving an education at an extremely impressionable age. The last thing any parent wants is hampered development because of troubled vision.

The most important part of your eye exam is the assessment to seek out silent killers known as eye disease. Eye disease is often symptomless in the early stage and untreatable when diagnosed in the later stages. Common diseases include macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of blindness. This is why getting an eye exam often and early is imperative.

Fortunately, half of all blindness can be prevented. Prevention relies heavily on completion of your annual eye assessments. If conducted, there is a much higher chance that your eye doctor diagnoses an eye disease like diabetic retinopathy in an early stage, which can lead to treatment and prevention of blindness. In some cases, an eye exam could even detect the incidence of diabetes before your general practitioner. According to the American Diabetes Association, African Americans are 1.7 times more likely to have diabetes than non-hispanic whites. This is exceptionally important, especially in Georgia, because according to the 2010 US Census African Americans make up 30% of our entire population. Comprehensive eye exams can be life changing and it is imperative to seek out these diseases before blindness is certain.

The CDC reports that people who take adequate care of their eyes and vision have a lesser chance of heart problems, high blood pressure, strokes, poor hearing, poor development in adolescents, and diabetes. It is imperative to make an appointment every year, not just for eye health but as an indicator for your overall wellbeing. Like Transformers, there’s more than meets the eye.

Could anti-HIV medication could prevent blindness?

Thanks to the visionary research doctors at the University of Kentucky’s Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences’ study on “dry” age-related macular degeneration in mice, has shown a widely-used class of drugs used to treat HIV called NRTIs could prove effective in treating older adults with AMD in the neighborhood of 50 years of age and older.

According to University of Kentucky ophthalmologist vice chair, Dr. Jayakrishna Ambati, in findings during a National Institute of Health-funded (NIH) study, “macular degeneration affects an estimated 50-million people worldwide,” WOW!

AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in people 50 years and older and is more common among Caucasians, people who smoke, or have a family history of the condition. Over time, AMD progressively damages a part of the eye called the macula, which is a light-sensitive part of the eye needed for crisp, clear vision.

Vision loss, to any degree, sounds pretty scary and can negatively impact a person or families.  If untreated, AMD can rob people of their ability to work, drive, read, cook, or even see their children or grandchildren’s faces.

Uses and effectiveness of the drugs are still the laboratory testing phases; however positive results in laboratory mice suggest a bright future for the drugs enhanced uses.

To ensure healthy and clear vision throughout you and your family’s lives, the NIH to discuss your eye health with a physician and to have an eye exam each year.

If you know someone in need of vision care, but cannot afford it, Georgia is home to one of the largest charitable care network in the country.  Charitable organizations like the Georgia Lions Lighthouse Foundation provide sight-saving eye exams, eyeglasses, eye surgeries (e.g. AMD, cataracts, and glaucoma) to undeserved Georgians across the state.

For more information on how to support the Georgia Lions Lighthouse Foundation’s mission to provide vision surgeries to those with AMD, please visit our website to make a donation to help those less fortunate.