Our visual clarity is incredibly important. It dictates who can drive, who learns the fastest, who gets the job, even who can enlist in the armed forces. However, “seeing well” does not necessarily mean that one has healthy eyes. Glaucoma, for example, is a degenerative condition of the optic nerve that causes progressive peripheral vision loss which could lead to total blindness. Unfortunately with glaucoma and many other eye diseases, patients tend not to notice symptoms until the condition is end-stage. Many times these conditions are treatable or preventable.
It is not uncommon to have a few patients each week present for routine exams without any symptoms, but leave my office en route to a laboratory, emergency room, brain imaging center, or specialist because of the ocular findings. HIV, diabetes, brain tumors, sarcoidosis, tuberculosis, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, sickle-cell, and strokes are just a few examples of diagnoses ultimately given to unsuspecting patients following an eye exam. An eye exam could save a patient’s life. Parents especially should be aware of the need for comprehensive eye exams instead of a limited vision screening. A vision screening will only indicate that there is a vision problem. It will not diagnose the specific problem or offer a test for spectacles, nor will it examine all the intricacies of the eye anatomy and physiology to rule out eye disease. Internists and pediatricians are limited in terms of diagnosing eye disease without the necessary specialized ophthalmic equipment that every optometrist has. Even if a patient is able to read all the way down the eye chart at the pediatrician’s office, a comprehensive, dilated eye exam is still recommended.
Dr. Harris is an optometrist and owner of Atlanta Vision Studio in East Roswell. He received his Doctor of Optometry degree in 2011 from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He is residency trained and is former Emory University and Grady Memorial Hospital ophthalmology faculty. www.atlvisionstudio.com (470) 273-5304