Frequently Asked Questions
by Dr. Jeffrey Ricks
“Glaucoma, diabetes and dry eye disease are just a few of the conditions that we see in patients who are asymptomatic.”
Who needs an eye exam, and how often?
Most people know that if you are having trouble seeing then it’s time to go to the eye doctor. What many people don’t realize is that sometimes the eye exam for a patient with no complaints can be the most important one. Every eye exam will include looking inside and outside the eye for health issues. In my experience, at least half of the issues I find in patients are either asymptomatic or are creating symptoms that the patients doesn’t link with the health of their eyes. Glaucoma, diabetes and dry eye disease are just a few of the conditions that we see in patients who are asymptomatic.
The best way to think of your eye exam is an eye wellness check. Vision is a part of that check, but ensuring the long term health of your eyes is perhaps the more important part of each eye exam. If you only went to your dentist when your teeth hurt it would be much more likely to develop a serious dental problem. Since there is no way to rule out a possible change in eye health based solely on your symptoms, an annual eye exam is recommended for all patients.
Are reading glasses ok to use?
The safest answer for this question is, “it depends.” The problem with using reading glasses is that they are often used by patients who have not had their eyes evaluated. Most patients will have some differences between their ideal prescription and what they can get from reading glasses. Reading glasses are not custom measured for the shape of your face, which can cause unwanted alignment issues while reading. In addition, the material in reading glasses typically has more distortion and aberration. As a result, some patients feel that they can use generic reading glasses, but most patients will feel more comfortable in a custom designed pair of glasses. There are also many other correction options available in prescription that may suit your needs better than a single power reader.
I also get concerned about the health of patients who do not get their eye’s examined. A patient might be able to use readers but not have any idea that they are developing glaucoma. It’s important not to make the assumption that good vision equals healthy eyes.
Why do I have to get my contact lenses checked every year? I’ve been wearing the same kind for a long time and I see fine.
Patients often wonder what I am looking for when I check their contacts. Every contact lens should have a certain appearance and movement when checked in the microscope. Often times patients may feel that their vision is fine, but I will observe a lens that doesn’t move properly on their eyes. A poorly fitting lens can lead to less consistent vision, dryness and risk of infection.
I also use contact lens visits to remind and educate patients about the best way to care for the contacts and safeguard their eyes. I often refer to poor contact lens wear as a game of Russian Roulette. Patients might be able to do the wrong thing for many years without symptoms, but odds are it will catch up with them. I just take the time during the exam to help remind each patient how to avoid the risk of problems and to make any lens changes that are necessary.
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