Regular eye exams are an important tool for detecting eye diseases and evaluating overall health. Some diseases, such as glaucoma, develop gradually without symptoms of pain or vision loss, so patients may not notice that anything is wrong until significant and irreversible damage has been done. Early detection of eye diseases allows for a choice of treatment options and a reduced risk of permanent damage. An eye exam is different from a vision screening, which only tests vision and is commonly performed by a school nurse, pediatrician or other health care providers. Only an eye doctor can conduct a medical examination of the front and back of the eye.
Glasses & Contact Lenses
Refraction is the process of determining the correction for myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), astigmatism (irregularity in the optics of the eye) and presbyopia (weakening in the focusing mechanism of the eye). After performing a refraction, your doctor can discuss correction options with glasses or contacts that best suit your needs.
Diabetic Eye Exam
Patients with diabetes are at an increased risk of various complications including diseases that can lead to vision loss. In fact, diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in the United States. More than 40 percent of patients with diabetes will develop some form of eye disease in their lifetime. Early detection of eye disease can help prevent permanent damage. In addition, an exam of the back of the eye can help warn about the presence of microvascular disease in other organs, such as the kidneys and the heart. For this reason, it is important for diabetic patients to have their eyes examined at least once a year.
Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness and visual impairment in the United States. Glaucoma can affect patients of all ages but becomes more common with age. Many people affected by glaucoma do not experience any symptoms initially and may not be aware that they have the disease until they have lost a significant amount of vision. With early detection and treatment, eyes can be protected against further loss of vision. Treatment for each individual case depends on the type and severity of glaucoma. Most patients do very well using drops to reduce pressure in the eye. Some patients, however, may require a laser procedure or surgery.
Dry eye is a common condition that leads to discomfort, blurred vision, eye fatigue, itching, redness or pain from an irregular tear film. It may be caused by insufficient tear production, from excessive tear evaporation, or from a combination of the two. In cases of severe dry eye, serious damage and vision loss may occur. Dry eye is common but is more often found in women, older patients, contact lens wearers, and patients who had LASIK. Certain medications and medical conditions may also be associated with dry eye syndrome. Your doctor can discuss diagnosis and treatment options with you.
Cataracts are defined as any opacity in the natural lens of the eye. Cataract surgery is performed to replace this hazy lens with an intraocular lens implant (IOL) once it becomes visually significant or, rarely, for medical reasons. Some patients may choose to reduce their dependence on glasses with premium IOL's. Advanced surgical techniques using lasers are also available and may be beneficial.
The cornea is the clear covering in the front of the eye which bends, or refracts, light rays as they enter the eye. For clear vision to occur, the cornea must have the correct shape and clarity to focus incoming light rays precisely on the retina at the back of the eye. When the cornea becomes cloudy or misshapen from injury, infection or disease, repair of transplantation may be recommended.
Uveitis is the inflammation of the uvea, the middle layer of the eye, which contains the iris, ciliary body and the choroid. The uvea is located between the retina and sclera, the white of the eye. The uvea provides most of the blood to various parts of the eye with its numerous veins and arteries.
Uveitis is generally divided into auto-immune uveitis and infectious uveitis. Auto-immune uveitis is treated by suppressing the immune system with drops, injections, or systemic medications. Infectious uveitis is treated by controlling the infection. Uveitis can result in complications that include glaucoma, cataracts, and scarring inside the eye. Uveitis may also be associated with systemic diseases such as arthritis.
A pterygium is a painless, non-cancerous growth of the conjunctiva over the cornea, that may be caused by exposure to UV light, wind, and dryness. When the growth is confined to the conjunctiva, it is called a pingueculum. Pterygia may be surgically corrected when symptomatic.
For further information, go to GetEyeSmart.org, maintained by the American Academy of Ophthalmology.