PUBLISHED: 4:45 PM on Wednesday, May 3, 2006
Checkups catch eye diseases before symptoms appear

  Courtesy photo
Eye health and good vision are not to be taken lightly, even by people who have never had any vision trouble, according to Prevent Blindness.

The cost of failing to have regular eye exams could be one's sight, said Diana Condon, the executive director of the organization.

All adults, even those who do not experience vision problems, should get their eyes examined by an optometrist or ophthalmologist every year, she said.

And, those exams should include tests for the most common eye diseases.

"We recommend that (adults) have an annual eye exam so that they can make sure they are OK," Condon said. "You never know how what you did in your youth can haunt you later on."

For example, people who had spent years often outdoors without sunglasses are more at risk to develop cataracts, she said.

A cataract is clouding of the eye's lens. It leaves the patient with low sight. The natural lens must be surgically removed and replaced with an artificial lens implant in order to restore sight.

A thorough eye exam includes dilation of the pupils so that the doctor can look inside the eye to check its health, Condon said. This enables the doctor to better check for glaucoma, an eye pressure disease that can lead to blindness.

Often doctors also check eye pressure with an instrument that blows a puff of air into the eye.

With both eye diseases there are no early symptoms, Condon said.

"You need to ask that they do a dilated eye exam," Condon said.

Prevent Blindness recommends that children receive their first eye exam during infancy, at about 6 months old. If the baby has no eye health or vision problems, the next routine visits should be at 3 years old, again at 5 years old and as needed thereafter, Condon said.

Early detection of children's vision and eye balance problems leads to greater success in fixing or lessening any negative effects, Condon said.