I find that vision is one of the most taken for granted senses that we possess. If it’s good, it’s great, and we don’t bother to do the maintenance until it’s too late. Just like any car, there is a regular maintenance schedule and if you don’t follow it then your car is bound to breakdown sooner than you expect it to. Why we don’t treat our eyes the same way is still beyond me. Vision isn’t the only thing though, I realize many of us don’t get blood tests or physicals done as often as we should as well. The mentality is usually “if I don’t feel like anything is wrong then I’m fine”. Which works some of the time, but the thing about eye related diseases is you can’t see or feel anything wrong until late stages when the damage has already been done (and is often irreversible).

It’s become socially acceptable that we need our teeth cleaned every 6 months – when it used to be every year. Insurance companies are also aboard this train and that is awesome for that industry. I completely agree with preventative care and if that’s what my dentist is going to recommend I do then that’s the regimen I’ll follow. Unfortunately that’s not the same for eyes – why I’m not sure. Insurance companies dictate that only children need eye exams every year. The rest of us adults only get it every 2 years. As an optometrist, I will always recommend coming in every year if possible, but understand that due to insurance restraints most people will only do it every 2 years. How long will it take to convince the insurance companies that the eyes should be checked once a year to prevent eye diseases. It’s sad that our society makes health care related decisions based on what our insurance companies dictate.

Glaucoma and Macular Degeneration are two of the most common degenerative eye diseases. Both of these diseases in the early stages affect our eyes in ways we cannot see or feel happening. It isn’t until there is permanent damage to the optic nerve/macula that we can see it happening. By the time there is vision loss, it is often too late to reverse this damage. By having regular comprehensive eye exams, these diseases can be detected at early stages and treatment can be started so that it never reaches the late stages. Glaucoma and Macular Degeneration are not curable, but they are controllable. Diabetics can lose their vision if it’s not controlled.

You don’t have to be old to develop eye diseases (although majority don’t affect us until our golden years). Just the other day, I had a young healthy patient notice a change in her vision and she was diagnosed with a rare systemic disease. Many systemic diseases affect the eyes and we can see signs of these diseases during the examination. Diabetes, Marfan’s Syndrome, hypertension, thyroid diseases, or even certain types of arthritis have ocular manifestations. In some cases, systemic diseases are diagnosed starting with the eye exam based on findings we see.

Eye health shouldn’t be something we have to compromise on. If it’s cost that’s preventing people from getting their eyes checked, it comes down to roughly $0.29 per day. A good pair of glasses (non-designer frame and lens) will cost around $0.55 to $0.68 per day (even cheaper if you only change the glasses every 2 years). So about $1.00 a day to have clear vision and healthy eyes. Is being able to see clearly not worth $1.00/day?

 

 

Natasha Liaw

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