A recent survey found that only half of Americans see an eye care professional on a regular basis. We understand — we all lead busy lives. But it's important to set aside time for an eye exam. For 2020: Year of the Eye, the American Academy of Ophthalmology presents 20 reasons to see an ophthalmologist.
Why an ophthalmologist?
1. Ophthalmologists are trained physicians and surgeons, who are well-versed in health conditions beyond just those related to the eye. This means they can diagnose and treat eye diseases and can sometimes diagnose systemic diseases that a specialist or primary care physician can help treat. The Academy recommends all healthy adults have their eyes dilated and see an ophthalmologist for a comprehensive eye exam by age 40. This can prevent vision problems later in life.
How will regular eye exams boost my health?
2. An ophthalmologist evaluates and considers your personal risk of disease, which is influenced by race, age and family history. They’ll steer you toward the proper health screenings at the right times.
3. Ophthalmologists can spot eye disease early and take steps to protect your sight. Many eye conditions are silent: By the time you notice symptoms, your vision may be partially impaired. This is true for potentially blinding eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration, ocular melanoma or glaucoma.
4. An ophthalmologist can also guide healthy lifestyle choices. You can protect your vision by eating eye-healthy foods, exercising, and protecting your eyes from UV light. Cigarette smoke in particular can worsen eye conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration. Your doctor will suggest personalized tips.
5. There are pros and cons to dietary supplements for eye health. Consult with an ophthalmologist before adding new supplements or vitamins to your routine. They’ll help you understand the potential risk and benefits.
When should I seek medical attention right away?
6. Every so often, eye infections lead to complications, including blindness. If you think you have an eye infection, consider skipping the urgent care center. Get treated by an ophthalmologist right away.
7. Always seek emergency medical attention after an acute eye injury. Hospital emergency departments work closely as first line medical care in emergency settings and may consult ophthalmologists for conditions which can impair vision. So, whether you caught a hockey stick to the face or splashed cleaning spray in your eye, your ophthalmologist can help in the process of medical care to rule out and treat potentially serious damage.
Though not always a sign of serious disease, there are a few changes you should never ignore. See an ophthalmologist immediately if you notice any of these symptoms:
8. A change in vision, or sudden blurriness, could be a sign that you need treatment for a condition such as cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, retina or systemic disease.
9. New floaters or flashes in your vision could signal a serious problem such as a retinal detachment.
10. Double vision sometimes warns of systemic brain conditions or nerve injury.
11. Sudden loss of vision should be checked right away. Even if your vision darkens for a few seconds and then comes back, you may need to go to the emergency room or make an urgent appointment with your ophthalmologist. This may be a symptom of a potentially blinding eye condition.
What else warrants a visit to my ophthalmologist?
12. People with diabetes should get regular eye checks. High blood sugar can damage blood vessels in the eye and cause vision loss. Controlling your blood sugar and going in for regular medical checkups are two ways you can protect your eyes from diabetes.
13. Vision changes during pregnancy. An ophthalmologist can help treat common eye conditions of pregnancy, such as dry eye. Some women develop pregnancy-related diabetic eye diseases or high blood pressure — ophthalmologists are part of the treatment team for these conditions, too!
14. Considering LASIK or other refractive surgery? An ophthalmologist can make sure you’re a good candidate before you spend the money.
15. What about brow lifts and nose jobs? If you’re on the market for cosmetic surgery on the face, consider an ophthalmologist who specializes in oculoplastics. These doctors are highly skilled at operating on eyelids and the delicate bones around the eye.
16. Certain cosmetic products, such as eyelash growth serums or contact lenses, require a prescription from a doctor. An ophthalmologist can discuss risk factors and safety tips.
17. If you suffer from dry eye and can’t find relief in home remedies, an ophthalmologist can pinpoint the cause and find a treatment that can help.
18. There are lots of myths out there about our eyes and vision. Before buying blue light-blocking glasses or other over-the-counter products that are advertised to save your sight, get the facts straight. Your ophthalmologist can provide solid advice backed by the latest research.
19. If you’re already living with low vision, add an ophthalmologist to your vision rehabilitation team. They’ll collaborate on the best ways to preserve your sight and boost your independence in day-to-day life.
20. Many people say vision is the sense they rely on most. Protect your sight throughout your lifetime by following the Academy’s recommended schedule for eye exams based on your age, family history and heritage.