The end of summer typically signals a return to school and a more structured routine for a large part of the population.
It’s also a good time to think about the routine scheduling of health exams that may have gone unattended to over the last year and half under ever-changing COVID conditions.
August is recognized as National Eye Exam Month and it’s a good reminder to schedule a comprehensive exam as good vision is strongly related to better work and school performance.
Know these four facts to keep your vision A+ for life.
1. Your brain plays tricks on your vision.
It’s only natural to believe that if you can see well, there’s no need to visit the eye doctor.
Unless vision loss is sudden or dramatic, the brain is incredibly adaptive at masking signs of gradual vision loss. This adaptive ability tricks you into thinking that your vision is fine, when, in fact there may beginning signs of treatable eye disease.
Many eye diseases, including glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, have no symptoms in the early stages but are easily treated to prevent long-term damage.
While the brain helps you perceive ‘normal’ function in the short term, it can be incredibly devastating to discover that imperceptible vison loss has morphed into irreparable damage over time. Not a very nice trick indeed.
A comprehensive eye exam is the only way to detect early signs of eye disease. Seeing your eye doctor regularly can help protect your vision, even when you think you are seeing fine.
2. New glasses do more than accessorize your appearance
In addition to evaluating your eye health, a routine exam will also show how well you see at different distances and if glasses would help. Refractive errors are extremely common, accounting for 80% of vision impairment in the United States.
The most common refractive error is myopia, or short-sightedness. This is when you see clearly close-up, but things in the distance are blurred or distorted.
Other refractive eye errors include hyperopia (far-sightedness), astigmatism and presbyopia.
Refractive errors are caused when light entering the eye does not reflect properly and ‘scatters’ abnormally on the light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye. This causes images sent to your brain to appear distorted and blurred, making it difficult to focus on them.
Refractive errors can also cause a host of other symptoms like glare, halos, headaches, and eye strain.
Corrective lenses can help you see clearly again and protect your eyes from harmful wavelengths of light with special coatings.
3. Learning and vision go together like peas and carrots.
Vision and learning are closely linked.
One in four children have a vision problem and a common reason children fall behind in school is poor, undetected vision.
Since children don’t know what ‘normal’ vision looks like, they may have difficulty describing not seeing clearly. Poor vision can lead to reading impairment, distracted learning, or headaches in young children.
Children’s eyes change rapidly as they grow, so eye care is important to performing well in school.
That goes for older kids and adults as well. Difficulty seeing impacts the brain’s ability to process images and information well.
Regular visits to your eye doctor can help detect problems early to prevent reading and learning difficulties.
4. Your eye doctor can see if you need a new prescription – for blood pressure medicine.
It’s amazing how your ophthalmologist can spot the onset or progression of chronic health diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol just by conducting a thorough eye exam. Eye exams have even helped diagnose cancer and blood clots in addition to early signs of macular degeneration or cataracts.
Think of your relationship with an ophthalmologist similar to that of a primary care physician. They will be beside you for life to not only preserve vision but prevent other damaging health conditions.
The eye can reveal subtle and not so subtle changes in the status of your blood vessels and heart. Trust your ophthalmologist if they refer you to your primary care doctor or specialist for follow-up after an eye exam.
Early detection is important to prevent serious damage. You may need a new prescription for more than just eyeglasses.