Periodic eye examinations are an important part of preventive health care. Certain eye diseases can cause damage and vision loss without any apparent signs or symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment are important for maintaining good vision. The need for eye examinations varies with age, race, sex, medical conditions, family medical history, and occupation. Those individuals with certain risk factors may necessitate more frequent examinations.
Newborns are typically screened at birth for eye disorders. Early diagnosis and treatment are important to prevent vision loss due to congenital disorders such as a crossed-eye and amblyopia. Amblyopia or lazy eye is responsible for more cases of visual loss in children than all other ocular conditions combined; 2-4% of Americans have amblyopia. Treatment before the age of 5 is critical to improve this condition. Amblyopia can be caused by crossed-eyes, unequal refractive error (i.e. one eye farsighted and one nearsighted), high refractive error, or congenital cataract. With amblyopia, the brain learns to see with the good eye and the other eye grows weaker through disuse. Regular eye examinations should begin by age 3.
Vision may change frequently during the school years usually due to the development of nearsightedness. In addition, the existence of eye focusing or eye coordination problems may affect school performance. Children who are failing in school or exhibit reading or learning difficulties should receive an eye examination as part of a multidisciplinary evaluation. Often, a child misdiagnosed with dyslexia has astigmatism that distorts the perception of letters. Astigmatism can be corrected with glasses. Annual eye examinations are recommended for children who wear glasses.
Many young adults wrongly assume that they cannot get certain eye diseases such as glaucoma. African-Americans, Caribbean-island natives, and those with a family history of glaucoma have a higher risk of developing glaucoma at a younger age than the general population. To maintain optimum eye health, examinations are recommended every two to four years for those who do not wear glasses, every two years for those who wear glasses, yearly for contact lens wearers, and more frequently for higher risk groups. Higher risk groups include individuals with diabetes, hypertension, family history of glaucoma, and certain ethnic origins.
Adults over age 60 have an increased risk for cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and other sight threatening conditions. The old adage that the “eye is the window to the body” is absolutely true. Many diseases such as diabetes and hypertension manifest themselves in the eye first. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in the United States in adults ages 20-74. A dilated eye exam is a diabetic’s first line of defense in preventing vision loss. The American Diabetes Association recommends annual dilated eye exams to screen for diabetic retinopathy as well as other eye diseases. Older adults also have a higher incidence of immune system and vascular disorders that can affect the eyes such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and arteriosclerosis.
Protect your vision. Make an appointment with the Maryland Eye Associates today.