Why should I have an eye exam?
Many patients relate that their biggest fear is going blind. A comprehensive eye exam is invaluable in detecting ocular disease in order to provide early treatment and thereby preserve visual function. Several common ocular diseases, such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy, may present without any symptoms in the early stages of the disease. Other uncommon ocular diseases, such as melanoma of the eye, may also be caught early before the tumor has had a chance to spread and thereby preserve life. Preserving eyesight through effective eye care and treatment of ocular disease enhances quality of life and may improve physical function, such as improving the ability to see to drive by prescribing glasses or having cataract surgery.

It has been said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. Certainly, the eyes can be the window to other disease processes going on in the body. The comprehensive eye evaluation can be the means of making the initial diagnosis of a number of systemic diseases, including high blood pressure, diabetes, infectious diseases including tuberculosis and AIDS, brain and other metastatic tumors, hematological diseases, and other cerebrovascular diseases. Certain systemic drugs also have an effect on the eyes. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors that have gone through medical school (just like your primary care physician) and as such understand best the link between the eye and the body. The ophthalmologist will evaluate and integrate the findings of the comprehensive eye exam with all aspects of the patient's health status and social situation in determining the appropriate course of action

What is included in an eye exam?
A thorough history of not only any eye symptoms and required visual needs of your occupation/hobbies/lifestyle activities, but also an extensive medical history will be obtained. The exam consists of measuring your vision as well as any glasses prescription, measuring your eye pressure for glaucoma, an evaluation of the surface of the eye as well as the inside of all parts of the eye under magnification, and an assessment of the pupils, muscle function and peripheral vision. Dilation will also be performed (unless medically contraindicated) if it is your first visit, if there are systemic diseases such as diabetes that require an extensive view of the retina, or if it has been several years since the last dilated exam. Depending on these findings, additional studies may be performed.

How often should a person have an eye exam?
The recommended interval between examinations will vary with age and any risk factors, such as systemic disease, eye disease, or risk factors that increase your chance of developing an eye disease (for example, a family history of glaucoma). Contact lens wearers must have yearly exams, as the contact lens prescription is only valid for a year by law.

How early should a child have a comprehensive eye exam?
A child's eye is not just a smaller version of an adult's eye. The child's visual system is not fully developed or mature until the age of eight or nine years. Because of the immaturity of the visual system, disorders that have little or no affect on an adult may cause severe visual loss in a child if not detected and treated early in life.

For more information on this topic, please click on the following link to read an article written by Dr. Blair for Little Rock Family.

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