Late Breaking News
Advances in Eye Care Allow Many Conditions To Be Treated If Caught Early
- Categorized in: June 2009 Issue
WASHINGTON—Without a comprehensive eye exam, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and many other conditions that destroy vision may not be caught early enough to prevent further damage to the eye. “The reasons for comprehensive eye exams is to identify conditions and problems at the earliest stage and render treatment to avoid an impact on people’s lives and their abilities to do their jobs and to function,” according to Cdr. Kent Blade, MC, USN, an ophthalmologist at the Naval Medical Center San Diego.
Patients have good reason to visit an ophthalmologist these days. Advances in eye care allow for many conditions to be treated if they are caught early. “Ophthalmology has advanced so much over the last few years that conditions that people thought would blind them can now generally be treated for or slow down the progression of those diseases. So to be diagnosed for glaucoma or macular degeneration isn’t a sentence for blindness, which it may have been a few years ago,” he said.
Screening for Eye Conditions
During a comprehensive eye exam, the ophthalmologist can check for a number of eye conditions that could lead to vision problems for the patient. “For a thorough eye exam, we are looking at the structural health of the eye, the physiological function, and how the eye integrates with the brain,” Dr. Blade said. “We look at what the pressure of the eye is, which helps us in the detection of glaucoma. We are looking at people’s peripheral vision or visual ﬁelds, which can also be affected with glaucoma. We look at the structure of the eye, the front of the eye and the back, where we might detect a cataract. We are looking at the back of the eye looking for macular degeneration.”
These exams are important because symptoms for eye conditions do not always appear until the disease has progressed. “Many ocular conditions have no visual symptoms until late in the disease, when they are in end-stage and there is no way to regain that vision,” Dr. Blade said. “Ideally, if we detect ocular conditions in the much earlier phase, we are able to render treatment and have a much better visual outcome and visual function.”
In addition to eye conditions, an eye evaluation can also ﬁnd evidence of other diseases, like hypertension and diabetes. In some cases, we may even detect a brain tumor because of abnormalities we see in the eye,” Dr. Blade said. In 2007, the American Academy of Ophthalmology issued new recommendation that adults with no signs or risk factors for eye disease get a baseline eye disease screening at age 40. Based on the results of the initial screening, an ophthalmologist can prescribe the necessary intervals for follow-up exams. According to the Academy, a baseline evaluation is important because it may detect eye diseases common in adults ages 40 and older that they may not be aware that they have.
For individuals at any age with symptoms of eye disease or those with a family history of eye disease, diabetes or high blood pressure, the Academy recommends that individuals consult their ophthalmologist to determine how frequently their eyes should be examined.