Things that Your Eye Doctor Wants You to Know

Preserve Your Vision

Even if you have near-perfect vision, regular eye exams help your doctor spot signs of problems early. That way, you can treat them before they damage your sight. But the path to better eyesight isn’t always clear—so we asked eye health professionals to share their insights on good vision care. Here, they open your eyes to important considerations.

1. “Don’t ignore symptoms, even if they appear and disappear quickly.”

If you lose vision in one eye—even for just a few moments—call your ophthalmologist or go the emergency room) right away. This could indicate a transient ischemic attack (mini-stroke). Other signs of trouble that warrant immediate attention include flashing lights, floaters (cobwebs or speck-like objects in your line of sight), and double vision. These are signs of serious problems that require fast treatment.

2. “20/20? Your eyes still aren’t perfect.”

Your eye doctor says you’re 20/20. This refers to your central vision—what you see when you look straight ahead. However, your side vision, night vision, or color vision could still be impaired. “Some potentially blinding eye diseases, such as glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy, can take years to develop,During this time, they are harming parts of the inner eye, but the central vision can remain unaffected.

3. “You need to tell me about your smoking habit.”

Cigarettes make you prone to eye conditions like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Your eye doctor needs to know whether you’re at risk. “The better we understand your condition and risks, the better we can help you protect your vision. The benefit of quitting smoking is dramatic: After quitting smoking, the risks for these eye diseases become almost as low as for people who have never smoked.

4. “Be prepared to have your eyes dilated.”

During a comprehensive eye exam, your eye doctor will put drops in your eyes to make your pupils bigger. This way, he or she can see into the back of your eye and spot vision problems early, before they cause symptoms. Your vision may be blurry or sensitive to light for a few hours afterward. A patient may find it better to have someone with them to drive.

5. “Optometrists and ophthalmologists aren’t the same.”

While nonmedical optometric practitioners (optometrists) provide basic vision care services, only ophthalmologists are trained, certified and regulated within the field of medicine to diagnose and manage all eye diseases. Optometrists can diagnose some eye conditions and prescribe medications. Only ophthalmologists, who’ve attended medical school, can perform surgery. No matter which provider you choose, find one who cares about your needs and explains things in a way you understand.

6. “Understand your insurance before you arrive.”

Often, your vision benefits come from a different company than your main medical coverage. Vision exams, eye treatments, and products like glasses and contacts may all be billed differently. “It can be difficult for patients and even our staff sometimes to understand the hundreds of plans out there. At least review your plan and have a general idea of what’s going on with your insurance to eliminate confusion.

7. “Sunglasses are more than a fashion accessory.”

The sun’s UV rays harm your eyes just as they damage your skin, increasing your risk of cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and even eye cancer. Choose a pair of shades that says it blocks 99% or more of these rays. Wear them any time you’re outdoors, especially during the summer, while at the beach, and when participating in winter sports. “They’re as important as sunscreen.eye doctor

8. “You don’t have to wait for your cataracts to get worse.”

Contrary to popular belief, your cataracts don’t have to be “ripe” or “ready” before removal. Once your vision is affected, it’s time to talk to an eye surgeon to determine whether cataract surgery is the right solution for you. In some cases, your doctor can implant a new lens that corrects your vision as well as clears your cataract—so you might not need glasses at all afterward.

9. “Ill-fitting, old, or poorly cleaned contacts can cause serious problems.”

Prevent eye infections by disinfecting lenses according to your eye doctor’s instructions. Don’t forget to wash the case—bacteria can thrive there, too. And have the fit of your lenses evaluated on a regular basis. Otherwise, they could scratch your eye or cause new blood vessels to grow into your cornea, clouding your vision. Remove your lenses and call your eye doctor immediately if you develop redness, pain, or other eye problems.

10. “Your overall health is linked to your eye health.”

Don’t keep your health history a secret. Patients receiving an eye exam often downplay conditions that could point to serious eye diseases. Not sharing health issues, such as heart disease, diabetes, or mental illness, can be detrimental to your vision. Digestive, metabolic, inflammatory, joint, muscular, and breathing disorders—almost all of these have consequences for your eyes and should be discussed.