He sat in reception waiting for his eye exam, nearly 18, nearly an adult and nearly taking responsibility for his own healthcare, a big step in this parenting journey, when you start to relinquish control! So when he handed me a referral letter after this routine eye exam, I was more than a little concerned, and 101 questions cascaded from my mouth, none of which he had any answers to – nearly an adult, but not nearly inquisitive enough! A quick chat with his optician, reassured me that it was only a referral for a possible minor condition, called keratoconus, which can be effectively treated. However for a short period of time, I had every possible scenario covered, and it made me really evaluate just how important these routine checks are. Routine checks that are readily available IF you act on the recall letters, IF you are even in the system, and IF you can be bothered to attend – yet all these ‘if’s’ can literally save your eyesight and in some rare cases, your life!
The vast majority of us, will only get our eyes checked if already presenting with reduced vision or pain. The fact is my son had no symptoms, so without an appointment this condition may not have been picked up until he did have symptoms, and sometimes the later the diagnosis, the less options there are.
So what does an eye exam consist of and are they really that important? Surely all you do is read some letters off a chart and the job’s a good’un, right? Not quite! Yes it is all painless and nothing to be anxious about, but the tests that are undertaken at optician’s, like Walford & Round, are far more extensive than reading some random letters off a chart. It is the health of the eye, that is of far more importance than how well you can see the telly! Visual acuity is obviously vital, especially for some professions, but there is so much more involved.
Screening tests will also include:
Checks on colour vision, which can alert the optician to other possible health issues, and can be important for career choices.
At an early age, amblyopia (‘lazy eye’) can be easily detected, and more crucially, corrected.
Ocular motility testing, testing smooth eye movements, to avoid eye strain, which can effect reading and sports vision and other skills. Depth perception is checked out and appreciation of 3-D images.
A slit lamp examines the structures of the front of your eyes, the health of eyelids, cornea, conjunctiva, iris and lens. Structures at the back of the eye, such as the retina and optic nerve is also examined. Cataracts, macular degeneration, corneal ulcers and diabetic retinopathy can all be eliminated or not, as a result of these tests.
Early tests for glaucoma performed at each exam are essential to safeguard your eyesight, these tests are simple, painless and crucial. Visual field tests, to check for blind spots, can also be indicators for glaucoma. You may also have the option for a scan, which is the belt and braces of the exam.
Most of us value the gift of sight over and above anything else, yet many of us do not schedule in the safeguarding of this most precious gift! So next time you are passing your local optician’s, do pop in, it may just be the best thing you ever do!