Many people dislike seeking medical care for any reason. But when it comes to changes in your vision, do yourself a favor and get to your eye doctor. Early intervention may allow you to avoid complications that can occur if you wait.
There are ways to take care of your eyes before changes occur. One way to do that is to get into the habit of protecting them, whether you are at work or at play.
In general, men suffer more eye accidents than women. You should wear eye protectors around power equipment and while playing sports, such as racquetball or squash. Eye injuries can also occur when doing something simple like hammering nails. Unfortunately, most men do not always think about wearing eye protection.
The 3 primary types of eye protection—safety glasses, safety goggles, and face shields—are sometimes worn in combination.
For any activity that involves chipping, grinding, riveting, sanding, hammering, or masonry, safety goggles should always be worn. Experts also say that handling chemicals, including those used on lawns, requires goggles. The best goggles are those where the sides touch the skin all around, as particles or chemicals can still fly up under glasses that are open on the sides. A face shield is often required if there are large flying objects or lots of debris.
One of the most consistent and predictable aging phenomena usually occurs in your 40s when you begin having difficulty focusing on close images, such as a book. You must either hold printed matter at arm's length, or if nearsighted, take off your glasses entirely to clearly see what you are reading. This phenomenon is termed presbyopia. The reason for the vision inconsistency is due to changes in the eye from normal aging. The lens of the eye becomes less pliable, and thus is unable to focus on close images. If you have always had normal vision, you may need a pair of reading glasses. They are inexpensive and available in most retail locations. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, your current prescription may need an adjustment. Other treatments include contact lenses and surgery. Talk to your eye doctor about the best options for you.
Eye doctors screen for disorders that, when caught early, can avert major problems later on. The American Optometric Association recommends the following schedule for those of average risk and without symptoms:
If you have eye problems or fall into a high-risk group for problems, you may need to be examined more frequently, like 1-2 times per year. You and your doctor will arrange a regular exam schedule that works for both of you. This may be needed if you have:
Cautionary Note : If you currently have eye symptoms, you should call your provider immediately for an evaluation. If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
For most healthy men, glaucoma screening should start right around age 40. Screening should start sooner if you have a family history of this condition or diabetes. Glaucoma increases pressure inside the eye and puts unhealthy pressure on the optic nerve. Moreover, there are several different types of the disorder. Left untreated, glaucoma can lead to blindness. It is important to keep up with regular screenings because most people do not know they have glaucoma until diagnosed during a comprehensive eye examination. Although pressure can be managed with medications and surgery, damage that has already occurred cannot be reversed. Glaucoma progression can often be halted with prompt medical treatment.
Men with diabetes are also at increased risk for diabetic retinopathy (DR). Diabetes causes blood vessels within the eye to leak. DR is a progressive disease and is a leading cause of preventable blindness in the United States. Getting regular check-ups to catch developing DR, along with proper glucose management, will help reduce your risk.
Cataracts—a clouding in the lens of the eye—usually come along about, or just after, the age of retirement, experts say. The first signs of a cataract is a clouding or lessening of vision. The condition may first make itself known as a glare at night or trouble with oncoming headlights while driving. Or, a light bulb may be seen as a display of stars. Because cataracts are slowly progressive, many people do not even know that they have been losing vision. Cataract surgery is usually an elective procedure done to improve visual sharpness. Surgeons remove the cloudy lens in the eye and replace it with a man-made lens.
Which type of vision care practitioner should you see?
Ophthalmologists are physicians who specialize in the medical and surgical treatment of eye disorders. Ophthalmologists attend medical school, followed by a 1 year internship and at least 3 years of an ophthalmology residency program. They check eyes for vision problems, diseases, and abnormalities. They perform eye surgery, prescribe medication, and usually write prescriptions for glasses and contact lenses.
Optometrists are not medical doctors, but hold a Doctor of Optometry degree. They perform examinations for glasses and contacts. They also diagnose and treat some eye disorders. The scope of practice of an optometrist varies from state to state, depending on that state’s laws. Some states allow optometrists to perform laser surgery or prescribe certain medications. Some optometrists also practice visual therapy to counter certain eye problems.
Opticians have less training than ophthalmologists or optometrists and cannot write prescriptions. They fit, supply, and adjust glasses, using a prescription from an ophthalmologist or an optometrist.
Eye Smart—American Academy of Ophthalmology
Glaucoma Research Foundation
Canadian Association of Optometrists
Canadian Ophthalmological Society
Cataract. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116240/Cataracts-in-adults. Updated June 14, 2017. Accessed October 3, 2017.
Common eye disorders. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/visionhealth/basics/ced/index.html. Updated September 29, 2015. Accessed October 3, 2017.
Diabetic retinopathy. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116611/Diabetic-retinopathy. Updated August 24, 2017. Accessed October 3, 2017.
Eye exams 101. American Academy of Ophthalmology Eye Smart website. Available at: http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/living/eye-exams-101.cfm. Published May 25, 2012. Accessed October 3, 2017.
Eye safety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/eye. Updated July 29, 2013. Accessed October 3, 2017.
Open-angle glaucoma. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114157/Open-angle-glaucoma. Updated March 6, 2017. Accessed October 3, 2017.
Recommended eye exam frequency for pediatric patients and adults. American Optometric Association website. Available at: http://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/comprehensive-eye-and-vision-examination/recommended-examination-frequency-for-pediatric-patients-and-adults?sso=y. Accessed October 3, 2017.
Last reviewed October 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD Last Updated: 11/4/2015