Is there a history of eye disease in your family? Two diseases of the eye can be inherited – and both can potentially cause blindness if left untreated.
1. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma and is caused when the drainage canals of the eye become clogged over time. This results in increased eye pressure. Early detection is the best way to prevent vision damage caused by glaucoma. Treating glaucoma before it progresses too far can prevent serious vision loss.
If you are at risk, it’s recommended you have your eyes tested:
- Every 2 to 4 years if you are under 40
- Every 1 to 3 years if you are between 40 and 55
- Every 1 to 2 years between 55 and 65
- Every 6 to 12 months if you are over 65
2. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease that causes damage to the retina – the part of the eye that focuses images and sends that information to the brain via nerve signals. Left untreated, AMD can cause permanent loss of central vision, which is required for many activities of daily life including driving and reading.
Fortunately there are many effective treatments for AMD that can help prevent vision loss. But unfortunately AMD has no early warning signs – so regular testing is key to ensure early detection.
Experts recommend a baseline ophthalmologic evaluation at age 40. The results of that screening will allow your ophthalmologist to recommend how frequently you should have follow-up screenings.
3. Changes in your general health
The many different systems of our bodies are interconnected. So believe it or not, an eye exam can often reveal larger health problems, such as diabetes. Diabetes is a serious illness that can cause damage to tissues throughout the body. However, it often has no symptoms, or the symptoms can be so subtle that they are overlooked. An eye exam can reveal damage to the blood vessels in your retina that indicate high blood sugar (the hallmark feature of diabetes). Diabetes can be controlled very effectively with diet, exercise and medication. But left unchecked, it can cause blindness and other serious health consequences.
An eye exam can also help with the early detection of other illnesses such as high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, stroke and eye tumours.
Cataracts cause clouding of the lens of the eye. We rely on the lens to focus light and images onto the retina, which in turn sends the image to the brain for recognition. If the lens is cloudy, the image that the brain receives will be blurred.
Most cataracts are caused by age. As we age, the protein in the lens that is normally well dispersed may clump together and become a cataract. This can happen as early as age 40. If caught early, symptoms can be improved through new eyeglasses, using brighter lighting and wearing anti-glare sunglasses. However, when cataracts progress and begin to affect daily activities such as driving, surgery is the only effective option.
Cataract surgery is a common procedure that lasts about an hour and is almost painless.
Clearly, if you have regular visits to your optometrist, you’re not going to be in the dark or concerned about the “what if” factor. You’ll have peace of mind knowing exactly where you stand with regards to the past, present, and to some extent, the future of your overall eye health.