We often get asked the question, Do I need an Annual Eye Exam if my eyesight doesn’t seem to have changed much?
The answer is a definite “Yes!” Adults of all ages need to have a thorough eye exam once a year. The reason is that regular exams can detect eye problems at an early stage, when they are easier to treat and less likely to damage your vision.
As we get older, our eyes change. Frustrating, yes, but an inevitable part of the normal aging process. We don’t see as clearly in our 40s as we did in our 20s. We may need reading glasses or stronger prescriptions. We may need lubricant drops to keep our eyes from becoming too dry.
Virtually everyone, at some point, will develop cataracts, the condition where the lens of the eye becomes hardened and cloudy, resulting in poorer vision that is treated surgically.
Not all age-related eye conditions are routine. At every eye exam, we are on the lookout for potentially devastating eye diseases such as glaucoma and macular degeneration. These diseases often begin “silently” and, if left untreated, can cause blindness.
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people older than 60. It occurs when the small central portion of the retina, known as the macula, is damaged. There are two types of age-related macular degeneration: the “wet” and the “dry” form. Most patients with macular degeneration have the dry form, characterised by the presence of yellow deposits under the retina.
The wet form, which is less common and more serious, is characterised by the growth of abnormal blood vessels that leak blood and fluid into the eye. This form of the disease tends to cause a sudden vision loss. It can progress rapidly and requires treatment as soon as possible.
While there is no permanent cure for macular degeneration, the good news is that it can be significantly slowed with proper medical treatment to help preserve eyesight.
The symptoms of macular degeneration include:
- Increased difficulty reading or driving
- Centre of vision becomes distorted
- Straight lines that appear crooked
- Changes in colour perception
- Dark, blurry areas or a “white out” area in the centre of vision.
Glaucoma is another serious eye condition that is a treatable cause of blindness. It is a leading cause of blindness in Australia, especially among older people. The optic nerve is progressively damaged, and glaucoma screenings, which check only intraocular pressure, are not sufficient to diagnose the disease. The only sure way to detect glaucoma is to have a complete eye examination.
We treat Glaucoma by lowering intraocular pressure either with eye drops, laser treatments or possibly surgery.
Monitoring the condition of your eyes from year to year is crucial. It will ensure that any potential problems such as Glaucoma or Macular Degeneration will be diagnosed early – when treatment is most effective