Why should I have my eyes examined regularly?

The following was written by Bill Evans and published in the Coolum and North Shore News, Ask the Professionals page on Friday, 29th July 2011.

Q: Why should I have my eyes examined regularly?

A: It is important to have your eyes and vision tested regularly, even if you are not having any trouble with your vision, for a number of reasons. Firstly, certain diseases of the eye may not have any symptoms, and early detection is important to prevent loss of sight. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects the macula, the central part of the retina on the back of your eye responsible for seeing fine detail. Early detection of AMD is important as treatment can be far more effective in the early stages of the disease. Glaucoma affects the peripheral or side vision first, giving a tunnel vision effect. By the time someone can see that they have lost their peripheral vision from glaucoma it is too late to do anything to restore it. An optometrist can often see the early stages of AMD or glaucoma before any vision is lost, and can refer to an ophthalmologist if treatment is required.

Secondly, it is not only diseases of the eye that an optometrist looks for. Signs of diabetes, hypertension, thyroid dysfunction, tumours and other systemic diseases may be apparent in the eyes. An optometrist may see these signs before a patient is symptomatic, or only has mild symptoms.

Also, even if you have spectacles or contact lenses and they have been trouble free, it is worth seeing if there are any new developments or technologies that could be more suitable to your visual tasks. New progressive lenses may give you a wider field of vision than your current glasses, or there may be a new contact lens that would be healthier and more comfortable than your existing lenses.

There are also other observations your optometrist may make and give you advice on, such as ways to avoid fatigue while using a computer, keeping good visual hygiene, and discussing your suitability for refractive surgery. Your optometrist may also be able to give you dietary advice on which foods or supplements can help prevent diseases such as AMD.

An optometrist would normally examine your eyes every two years, or more frequently if the need arises.