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How Eye Exams Protect Your Health

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Christine Saad, MD

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Your eye doctor is like a detective. When she examines your eyes, she assesses your eye health and finds important clues to your overall well-being.

“Many patients first learn they have a health condition such as diabetes during a routine eye exam,” says ophthalmologist Christine Saad, MD, with LVPG Ophthalmology–17th Street. That’s just one reason why having regular eye exams is important.

How often should you see an eye doctor?

If you have healthy eyes, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends:

  • In your 20s – Get one eye exam.
  • In your 30s – Get two eye exams.
  • At age 40 – Get an exam and talk with your eye doctor about regular follow-ups.
  • At 65 or older – Get an exam every one-to-two years.

If you have a family history of eye problems, diabetes or eye injury, you should see your eye doctor more frequently.

What health issues affect your eyes?

You may be most familiar with nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism, conditions that typically require prescription lenses. Yet an ophthalmologist also checks for other conditions and problems that could lead to vision loss. These may include:

  • Glaucoma – It causes increased pressure in your eyeball, which can gradually cause you to lose your vision.
  • Diabetic retinopathy – It occurs when tiny blood vessels inside your eye leak, causing retinal tissue to swell and making vision cloudy. “Often there are no symptoms until it reaches an advanced stage and causes permanent vision loss,” Saad says. An eye exam can find it earlier.
  • Macular degeneration – This age-related condition destroys your sharp central vision.

“If you experience any eye problems like pain, blurry vision, spots or loss of peripheral vision, see your ophthalmologist right away,” Saad says. There are treatments that can slow the progress of many eye conditions and ways to control the underlying medical condition, including keeping your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol under control. “But keep in mind that many conditions are silent and will not be detected without an exam,” Saad says.

Using new technologies to test sight

Today’s eye exams involve far more than an eye chart. At her practice, Saad and her colleagues use technology called OCT (optical coherence tomography), a noninvasive imaging test that uses light waves to take cross-section pictures of your retina. This examines the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye. Additional technologies help to detect glaucoma and other conditions.