Hi my name is Stephen Beirne and I have been a practising optometrist since 1997. I currently live in Falkirk, Scotland and have recently just opened my first practice. It never ceases to amaze me why people think that because they don’t wear spectacles they do not need a regular eye examination. I would like to give some reasons why they should.
The obvious first reason is to determine whether you (the patient) can see normally or not. In USA normal vision is called 20/20 in the UK it is 6/6. I have tested many patients over the years who say “I can see the sheep on the hills son!”. Only then I say to them “I am over here Mr Jones.!” Patients generally don’t know how good their vision is until they have been examined. If a child is born with one good eye and one blind, that is normal for them and they may assume everyone else is the same and not mention it until they have developed amblyopia (or a “lazy eye” as it is often called here). Everyone should have an eye examination as young as possible. Most 2 yr olds will be able to do a full examination if their interest is kept.
The second reason a regular eye examination is necessary is to check ocular health. Patients generally are unsure about what can go wrong with their eyes and many people take their vision for granted until something goes wrong.
Diabetes is on the rise in the world (type 1 and type 2) and diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in the developed world. These changes can be picked up in a routine eye examination. A patient can have diabetic changes on the retina and be totally unaware of their presence until an optometrist checks inside.So regular check for diabetics are an absolute necessity.
Glaucoma is another eye disease that can seriously affect vision but with the most common type “open angle glaucoma” commonly not having any patient symptoms in the early stages, patients are unaware of its presence. It was once called the “thief of sight” because by the time you know it is there, it is too late to remedy.
Retinal pathology doesn’t always give symptoms for patients either, unless the central or peripheral vision is significantly affected and by that time, helping restore vision loss can be much harder to achieve.
Cataract and macular pathology generally gives noticeable symptoms to the patient so in these cases patients will generally seek examination.
The third reason a regular eye exam is necessary is that it shows up general health issues, again before the patient may realise.
Inside the eye the Optometrist can see working vasculature, working nerves, working connective tissue and many other living processes in “real time”. You can’t get that view anywhere else in the body as easily as looking into the eye.
As an optometrist I can see early multiple sclerosis, raised intracranial pressure, high blood pressure, melanoma, rheumatoid arthritis, high cholesterol and many other general health pathology so it is vitally important that even if you feel your vision is fine, you should have a regular eye exam. In Scotland a medical doctor routine appointment is 10 minutes long. I see my patients for at least 45 minutes JUST for their eyes.
To finish off I would like to say that you should all have regular eye examinations because subtle changes in eye health and general health can be picked up during the exam that you otherwise would be unaware of.
As more than one patient has said to me over the years:
“the eyes can tell you a lot about a person”