(Beyond a vision test…)
We see our dentists every 3 to 6 months, and our hair dressers twice as frequently. We take our cars to the mechanic every “3 months or 6 000 km”, yet we seldom think of getting our eyes examined on a regular basis. Like the rest of our body, our eyes also change as we age. Unlike most of our body though, our eyes typically donʼt hurt even when something is wrong. A regular eye examination is crucial in detecting these symptomless yet potentially sight threatening conditions. The eyes have been poetically said to be the windows to our soul. Well, scientifically, the eyes are windows into our general health. Findings from an eye exam can lead to the discovery of previously undiagnosed conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and multiple sclerosis. Dr. Mei-Ling Chan, Barrie optometrist, truly believes in this.
Things to keep in mind when getting an eye examination
Think eye health assessment, not just a vision test
In the past, optometry was simply (for the most part) checking prescriptions and prescribing glasses. If the patients donʼt see well, you give them glasses; if their eyes feel dry, you give them tear drops; if they have cataracts, you refer. There was very little attention paid to factors like: what caused the problem in the first place, and how to prevent it from happening again.
A comprehensive eye examination at Dr. Mei-Ling Chanʼs Barrie optometric office aims to take into account all factors relevant to the long-term health and effective functioning of the patientʼs eyes. It is no longer enough to merely ask if there is any problems with their vision or eyes. We need to ask:
- are there factors that could affect the eyes (such as long hours in front of a computer screen, medications, humidity)
- overall health factors that may affect a patientʼs ocular health (for example, the glycemic control of a diabetic has tremendous impact on the health of his or her eyes)
- whether the type of vision correction used by a patient is compatible with his or her lifestyle. Teenagers who sleep with their non-silicone hydrogel contact lenses on are really asking for trouble. Similarly, someone who needs progressives (no line bifocal) but experiences a lot of motion-sickness may not do as well in a “soft” progressive lens design
- whether the cataracts in a patientʼs eyes are causing the prescription change (perhaps an ophthalmologist is more appropriate than changing glasses)
- whether a child struggling at school is because his or her two eyes are not working together (binocular vision problems)
- is the ʻstandardʼ intra-ocular lens implant suitable for the lifestyle of a patient undergoing cataract surgery (the bulk of patients undergoing cataract surgeries are retired and they want to enjoy life without being encumbered by glasses. In those instances, multifocal intra-ocular lenses should be discussed.)
This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but you get the idea.
Good lid hygiene is one of the keys to comfortable eyes
One of the most common reasons for a visit to an optometrist is a complaint of dry eyes. The lid and cornea (the front surface of our eyes) are the first, and arguably the most important defenses the eyes have against the environment. However, the lid can also be a source of problems because it is laden with bacteria. Recent studies have indicated that the majority of dry eyes are the result of problems at the lids. If we are as diligent about practicing lid hygiene as dentists are at insisting their patients floss and brush, this issue can be significantly reduced! So a good regimen of lid hygiene, combined with regular visits to an optometrist is your best protection against ocular surface diseases such as dry eyes. Ask Dr. Mei-Ling Chan, Barrie optometrist, about lid hygiene and dry eyes.