I have to admit something: I grew up in an era that made fun of kids with glasses. Especially big, thick ones. Now these thick, dark frames are all the rage. So the last time I went to the eye doctor, I had a hard time picking out frames because all I saw were big, thick, dark frames, until I found these lovely red ones (yes red!).
Of course, I may have had a hard time picking out frames because my eyes were dilated and recovering from the battery of tests from my comprehensive eye exam. Each of us knows the thing we dislike most about the various doctors we see. For example, at the eye doctor, for me, it is the “puff” test. After putting eye drops in your eyes, the doctor uses a device called a tonometer to measure the inner pressure of the eye as a small amount of pressure is applied to the eye by the “puff.” I really (!) dislike that “puff.”
Another routine eye test is ophthalmoscopy. This is when eye drops are used to dilate your pupils so that the doctor can look through your eye to examine the shape and color of the optic nerve.
Picking out frames, or doing anything requiring the use of your vision, after the “puff” and being dilated is hard work. Most of the time, we are just annoyed by these tests. But do you know what these are testing for? Glaucoma.
If either of these tests deviates from normal results, additional tests are run to further assess your field of vision, the angle of the eye where the iris meets the cornea, and the thickness of the cornea. This sounds intense… and it is.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that gradually steals your sight. There is no cure for glaucoma and, once vision is lost, it is permanent.
So in case you haven’t guessed… January is Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is called the “sneak thief of sight” because there are no symptoms. Over 2.7 million Americans have glaucoma – and studies show that at least half of them don’t know it. As much as 40% of a person’s vision can be lost before they notice it is happening! Yet once detected, treatment can slow or prevent further vision loss. It, however, remains the leading cause of preventable blindness.
According to the National Eye Institute, the best way to protect your sight from glaucoma is to get a comprehensive eye exam – and if necessary, begin treatment immediately. Everyone under the age of 40 should be tested every two to four years; from age 40 to age 54, every one to three years; from age 55 to age 64, every one to two years; and after age 65 every six months to 12 months. Anyone with high risk factors (for example, people over the age of 60, family members with glaucoma, diabetics, or steroid users) should be tested every year after age 35. More information is available at www.nei.nih.gov/glaucoma.
Simply put: a comprehensive eye exam can save your sight.
So, consider yourself “aware.” Now go make that annual/bi-annual eye doctor appointment and don’t dread the “puff.”
Hosanna Fletcher has lived in Newton County since 2005. With a Masters in Public Health and another in Sociology, she has worked on a variety of community development projects, led training sessions for Lay Health Advisors, conducted and evaluated health risk assessments, and designed and implemented employee wellness programs. Hosanna and her husband Kevin, a Newton County native, have been married for 15 years this October. They have two children — Miranda, 11, and Thomas, 3.