In terms of our overall health, our eyes can play a crucial role in letting us know if something isn’t quite right. Unfortunately, eyes are susceptible to disease and conditions that can significantly impact our daily lives, so appropriate care is required to ensure an overall healthy life.
Many people believe that maintaining good eye health only involves regular visits to the optician for eye tests or to upgrade their glasses prescription. While this is good practice, opticians are not qualified to deal with medical issues that could prove detrimental to your vision. For eye disease, early detection dramatically improves chances of treatment, so visits to specialist eye doctors known as ophthalmologists are recommended.
An ophthalmologist can diagnose and treat almost all eye conditions and perform complex eye surgery. While visits to optometrists and opticians are great for your eye health and are highly recommended, only ophthalmologists can offer a full range of expert medical and surgical treatment for conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration, retinal detachment, complications from diabetes, and much more.
In case you’re unsure about why you might need to visit an ophthalmologist, we’ve listed seven possible reasons below.
1. Regular eye exams are just as important as other health checks
Even though your ophthalmologist will be able to offer advice and treatment options for conditions that have been left untreated for a while, the earlier your ophthalmologist can identify an issue, the more chance you have of protecting your sight.
Some eye conditions (particularly ones that involve damage or degradation of the retina!) will require immediate action, so the best way to ensure that you receive the best treatment is to schedule regular eye exams.. even if you think you don’t need them!
In most cases, patients who present for regular eye exams will have conditions causing them discomfort treated quickly and easily. The better your ophthalmologist knows your eye history and builds up a clear picture of their overall condition, the more quickly they’ll be able to provide treatment.
2. You’re experiencing issues (of any kind!) with your vision
While it might seem obvious that if you’re experiencing issues with your vision, you should visit an ophthalmologist — many patients don’t consider their eye health to be a priority until their sight is obscured or they begin to experience pain. Patients experiencing blurred vision, issues with glare, eye redness, and headaches often put it down to stress or age without visiting a professional who can identify the real root of the problem.
Even for conditions such as ‘eye floaters’ (small dark shapes that float across your eyes), it is common for patients to just accept that these shapes are a permanent fixture to their vision. Patients who present with eye floaters will be thoroughly examined to ensure that there are no underlying conditions, and if suitable, treatment options such as vitrectomy surgery will be suggested.
If you’re experiencing issues of any kind with your eyes or vision, it’s crucial to seek expert advice as soon as possible. Your eyes shouldn’t present any discomfort or interfere with your daily life, so allow a professional to examine your eyes and put your mind at ease as soon as you notice a change!
3. You have a family history of eye conditions
If your family has a history of eye conditions, it’s even more vital that you schedule regular eye exams. Many eye conditions are hereditary (e.g. AMD and glaucoma), so if several people in your family have experienced issues with their eyes — the likelihood is that you will too!
The good news is that those with a family history of eye disease have an opportunity to get ahead of conditions that might be developing and catch complications as early as possible. As we’ve already mentioned, the earlier issues with your eyes are identified, the more treatment options will be available.
4. There are other health conditions that could be affecting your eyes
Did you know that issues with your eyes or vision can be directly connected to other health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, Lyme disease, autoimmune disorders, and even skin conditions like rosacea? A whole range of conditions can cause issues for your eyes, but only a trained ophthalmologist can fully evaluate the severity of the problem.
Many people suffering from chronic conditions that affect their eyes aren’t aware that treatment options are available. For example, approximately 10% of sufferers of inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease experience problems with their eyes — adding to the pre-existing discomfort already caused by their illness. A visit to an ophthalmologist can prove life-changing for people suffering from diseases such as Crohn’s, with treatment options available to improve overall quality of life.
Your ophthalmologist will also be well-versed in looking for signs of conditions relating to other health complications, so regular eye exams can help uncover more than just problems with your vision. It’s helpful to schedule eye exams around the same time as your other health checks so that your physician and ophthalmologist can provide a complete overview of your health.
5. You’re experiencing issues with your eyes during pregnancy
It’s not always easy to keep on top of your pregnancy symptoms, but one that often gets overlooked is the effect pregnancy has on your eyes. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can lead to water retention in the eye, dry eye, and several other conditions that don’t always get linked to pregnancy. Other conditions sometimes experienced during pregnancy such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, eclampsia, or hyperthyroidism can also significantly impact your eyes.
As symptoms such as blurred vision during pregnancy are usually temporary, they won’t require a new glasses prescription — but your ophthalmologist will still be able to offer alternative relief from your symptoms. The key is to not do anything that will negatively impact your eyesight after birth, so always speak to your ophthalmologist before making any changes to your eye care routine or using at-home treatments.
6. You can get advice on eye procedures, directly from the experts
The information surrounding procedures such as laser therapy and eye surgery can be overwhelming. That’s why speaking directly with an ophthalmologist before setting your mind on (or ruling out!) any procedure is useful. If you’ve been thinking about having a procedure such as laser eye surgery for a while or you’re just considering your options for the future — an ophthalmologist is always the best place to start.
A consultation with an ophthalmologist will determine your suitability for a procedure and offer education on alternative approaches that might work better for your needs. A professional ophthalmologist will never recommend procedures just for the sake of it — so a full eye exam will be carried out before matching you with the right type of procedure.
7. You have a fear of eye doctors
The idea of visiting an eye doctor can seem like a bigger deal than it is. Many patients avoid visiting an ophthalmologist because of a fear of eye exams or being presented with overcomplicated information that they will feel overwhelmed by. In fact, ophthalmologists are excellent communicators who couldn’t be more qualified for the job — so there really is nothing to worry about!
If you have a fear of eye exams, mention it to your ophthalmologist and during your eye exam, everything will be taken at your own pace. A consultation with an ophthalmologist is usually quick and easy — so there’s no need to fear the process. You’ll be in and out before you know it!
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