Colorado Optometrists Can See Health Issues Before Symptoms Arise

We’ve all seen those studies where Colorado ranks as one of the top states for health and fitness, but we still have room for improvement when it comes to individual health maintenance. Even in our state of pretty healthy residents annual comprehensive eye exams are often skipped.

However, going to this annual appointment can be very helpful for maintaining good health. Most people don’t know that an eye doctor can detect eye health and general health issues before they present symptoms. The ability for optometrists to detect these health issues early is impacting Colorado residents of all ages

The truth is that eye disorders and vision loss have a monetary burden and below is a breakdown of the financial costs for Colorado by age group*:

  • 0-17 years: $95 million
  • 18-39 years: $375 million
  • 40-64 years: $560 million
  • 65+ years: $2.85 billion

* Prevent Blindness, 2013, NORC at the University of Chicago. The analysis includes all medical costs and estimated productivity loss for eye disorders and vision loss.  The study did not include a monetary value for disability adjusted life years (DALYs) lost. The researchers indicated however that had they assumed a value of just $50,000 per DALY, the economic burden in the US would increase to a total of $153 billion.

Many eye diseases and health issues that an eye doctor can detect through a comprehensive eye exam are correctable or manageable with early detection. The financial impact and prominence of eye health issues can be reduced by getting an annual comprehensive exam.

5 Signs You Need a Comprehensive Eye Exam

  1. You Have No Symptoms & Haven’t Had an Annual Exam
    Even if you don’t have symptoms or vision changes, an annual comprehensive eye exam is a great way to keep up on your health and get a head start on any issues that may pop up before symptoms arise.

    Just because you don’t have any symptoms does NOT mean you should skip your annual comprehensive eye exam. Many vision threatening eye diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts, or diabetic retinopathy have no or minimal symptoms until the disease has progressed. Early detection is key to slowing progress, managing disease, and saving vision.

    Optometrists look at a lot more than just your vision acuity in a comprehensive exam and can even detect other health issues such as; autoimmune conditions, allergies, medication complications, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and more.

  2. You Have a Health Condition
    If you have a health condition that impacts your eyes like diabetes, high blood pressure or an autoimmune condition it’s important to stay on top of your annual eye exam in case any complications arise. Getting a comprehensive eye exam can help you stay on top of vision challenges and prevent further health challenges.
  3. Changes in Vision
    If you feel your vision is changing and suddenly you can’t read signs or small print, then it may be a good indication that you need glasses. An optometrist is just the person to investigate vision acuity issues and other health issues that could be causing this. If you have had changes in vision due to head trauma, optometrists advise you to get a comprehensive eye exam as soon as possible.

    Everyone should note that it’s common to have a change in vision around the age of 40 that requires the aid of glasses, contacts or a change in prescription.

  4. Frequent Headaches with Pain Around the Eyes
    Headaches can occur due to your eye muscles straining to focus. This type of headache usually occurs at the front of the head and/or the temples. The use of glasses can help reduce or eliminate these headaches.
  5. Dry Eyes
    Experiencing dry eyes doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it can lead to blurry vision or reflexive tearing. If your dry eyes are accompanied by redness or discharge that needs immediate attention from an optometrist.

Can I Just Get a Quick Screening?

A vision screening is simply a tool used to determine if you should see an eye doctor for a comprehensive exam and can be ineffective at detecting potential eye health issues. A vision screening does not diagnose any vision issues and does not replace a comprehensive eye exam with an optometrist. This means if you or your child have only been getting vision screenings then you will want to schedule a comprehensive exam soon.

What Can I Expect at an Eye Exam?

A comprehensive eye exam usually takes 30-60 minutes and is performed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. 

A Comprehensive Eye Exam Includes:

Patient History
The doctor will collect information on your health, family, and vision history along with current medications and symptoms. They will clarify your chief concerns.

Visual Acuity Testing
Testing for your vision with and without glasses.

Preliminary Tests
Testing eye pressures, screening for side vision, color vision, stereo acuity, pupil reactions, eye teaming and tracking.

Keratometry/Topography
Measuring the shape of the cornea.

Refraction
Checking the power of the glasses needed.

Eye Health Evaluation
Evaluating the health of the front of the eye and inside the eye.

Further Potential Testing Available
Based on the findings of the comprehensive vision exam further testing may be required to more accurately diagnose and treat conditions such as: Glaucoma, Macular Degeneration, Dry Eye, Allergies, Oculomotor Dysfunction and Binocular Vision issues.

Infant & Child Eye Exams:

Healthy Winter Eyes

The Winter season begins December 21 and ends March 19, but Coloradans experience shorter days, colder temperatures, and significant snowstorms long before this official start date. We take steps to winterize our homes, cars, and wardrobes, but we rarely consider how winter affects our vision and eye health.

Colorado’s mean elevation is the highest of all 50 states at 6,800 feet. Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy the views of our 59 peaks that sit at 14,000 feet or higher throughout the year and our largest city sits one mile above sea level at 5,280 feet. All of that altitude paired with the winter elements creates a unique set of challenges in protecting eye health throughout the season including snow blindness and dry eyes.

Increased risk of snow blindness (aka arc eye or photokeratitis)

 

Snow blindness occurs when the cornea gets too much UV light causing a sunburn. Symptoms of snow blindness can take hours to present themselves and include:

  • eye color
  • headache
  • blurred vision
  • temporary loss of vision

Enjoying life and winter activities at higher elevations means that we experience higher UV exposure and that translates to a higher risk of snow blindness. Even on overcast days UV rays can still penetrate cloud coverage and that beautiful blanket of snow intensifies all sun exposure through reflection. The intensified UV exposure in winter due to snow reflection at higher altitudes is generally why we see more cases of photokeratitis in the winter.

Prevent snow blindness by:

 

  • Polarized sunglasses for driving and daily outdoor activities.
  • A wide brimmed hat as an alternative if you’re without eye protection for a period of time, but it won’t protect your eyes from snow, water, or sand reflecting UV rays from the ground. 
  • High quality tinted goggles for winter sports like skiing and snowboarding because goggles provide full protection around the eyes when reflective UV exposure is high. This also reduces the risk of dry eyes.
  • Wearing eye protection at all times when outside and even during overcast periods.
  • Individuals who are experiencing photokeratitis should see their optometrist for help throughout the painful healing process.

Winter Dry Eyes

Colorado is a semi-arid to very-arid state. Cold air consists of less water than warm air making dry eyes more common in the winter.
Symptoms of dry eyes often include: 

  • Redness
  • Itchiness
  • Burning
  • Stickiness
  • A sensation of a foreign body in the eye

It’s important to understand that the use of space heaters and woodburning stoves/fireplaces can further dry out the air around you, which ultimately impacts the moisture levels in your eyes. To combat dry eyes, Colorado optometrists recommend:

  • Drinking plenty of water throughout the winter season and year-round.
  • Using over-the-counter artificial tears.
  • Wearing 100% UV blocking eyeglasses or goggles when outdoors.
  • Using humidifiers in the home and/or office.
  • Reducing the amount of time that you wear contact lenses.
  • Avoid smoke from cigarettes or indoor/outdoor fires as smoke can increase irritation. 
  • Point heating vents in your car away from your face or use seat warmers to reduce high heat airflow. 

If you think you need further treatment for either of these conditions, contact your optometrist or click here to find an optometrist near you.

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