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    Can you remember when you last had your eye exam?

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | February 20th, 2022

    Can you remember when you last had your eye exam?

    My optometrist stopped seeing patients during lockdown from COVID in 2020 and chose not to return to practice. I had been seeing her for over 15 years and was now left to find a new optometrist. Last year, I finally scheduled an appointment to see a new one. It had been at least two years since I had my last exam. When I arrived at my appointment, the person I was to see was not available so I ended up seeing another optometrist in the practice. The new optometrist made some changes to my prescription. Two weeks later, I picked up two glasses, one to be used for distance and the other to be used when I am working on computers. I have been wearing glasses since I was eight years old. Something did not feel right when I tried on the glasses. I was told that since this was a new prescription, it would take time for my eyes to adjust. I wore the glasses for two weeks and my vision was still not sharp. I called the office and insisted that I see the original optometrist who I wanted to see. They scheduled an appointment and I explained to the optometrist that I have been wearing glasses for a long time and I was concerned that my vision was not corrected with the new glasses. I insisted that I get a new eye exam. The optometrist performed a new exam and indeed had to make changes. I got a new prescription and new glasses. I thanked God that the problem was not more serious and was an issue of getting the wrong prescription. To be safe, I decided to see my ophthalmologist earlier than I was expected which would have been this year. I have a family history of glaucoma. I discussed the debacle that occurred and was reassured my eyes were in good health.

    I know you are probably wondering why a gynecologist is talking about her eyes. I am talking about my eyes because February is Low Vision Awareness Month and our eyes are an important part of our overall health. When I was not seeing the way I was supposed to see, I was worried. I was fortunate, my problem could be corrected with a change in the prescription, however for those with low vision, it is different.

    Low vision is a vision problem that makes it hard to do everyday activities. It cannot be fixed with glasses, contact lenses, or other standard treatments like medicine or surgery. The most common cause of low vision is age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is an eye disease that can blur your central vision. The reason that we have Low Vision Awareness Month is to inform the public that there are services available for people with low vision. Before I wrote this blog, I was not aware of vision rehabilitation.  Vision rehabilitation services can help people make the most of the vision they have.

    You will not know where you stand with your vision until you have an eye exam. A disease like AMD can be present before symptoms are present. We all need to be getting regular eye exams. On the Vision Service Plan (VSP) website, they list eight signs that should make you schedule an eye exam immediately. These signs include:

    1. Your eyes are red, dry, itchy, or you are seeing spots, flashes of light, or floaters.
    2. You have diabetes or another health condition that affects your eyes. Also, if you have a family history of glaucoma you may need exams more often especially as you move into your 50s and beyond.
    3. You cannot remember when you last had an eye exam. You have difficulty driving at night and seeing street signs in the dark.
    4. You experience eye strain, headaches, and/or blurred vision after spending an extended amount of time in front of a computer screen.
    5. You get motion sick, dizzy, or have trouble following a moving target.
    6. You hold books or the newspaper further away from your face and squint or close one eye to read them clearly.
    7. You notice any changes in your vision, especially after an incident of head trauma.

    Who is taking care of your eyes?

    An optician is a technician trained to design, verify and fit eyeglass lenses and frames, contact lenses, and other devices to correct eyesight. Opticians are not permitted to diagnose or treat eye diseases. They have a 1 or 2 years degree, certificate, or diploma after high school. They fill the prescription your eye doctor gives you.

    An optometrist is a health care professional who provides primary vision care ranging from sight testing and correction to diagnosis, treatment, and management of vision changes. An optometrist is not a medical doctor. An optometrist receives a doctor of optometry (OD) degree after completing four years of optometry school, after three or more years of college.

    An ophthalmologist is a medical or osteopathic doctor who specializes in eye and vision care. As a medical doctor who has completed college and eight years of additional medical training, an ophthalmologist is licensed to practice medicine and surgery. Some are specialized in certain eye diseases.

    I have an optometrist and an ophthalmologist. I have always seen an optometrist because I have been using glasses, however, due to my family history of glaucoma, I chose to add an ophthalmologist who specializes in glaucoma to my health care team.

    2 Responses to “Can you remember when you last had your eye exam?”

    1. Cleopatra Martey says:

      AGE-RELATED MACULAR DEGENERATION….WOW…one to grow one! Thanks for passing on this invaluable information. I am due for an eye exam myself.

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