Optometrists are trained and experienced in not just checking your vision, but also detecting early signs of sight-threatening eye conditions that have little or no visible symptoms to the patient.
Eye conditions you should know about
Glaucoma is often nicknamed the ‘silent thief of sight’ because it has no symptoms but can cause damage to the optic nerve, often resulting in the gradual, permanent loss of peripheral vision.
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in Australia and New Zealand. It affects central vision, which is what you use to read, drive, recognise faces and perform activities that require detailed vision. In early stages, macular degeneration also has no warning signs, so the only way it can be diagnosed and treated, is if early signs are detected in a routine eye test.
Diabetic retinopathy also has no symptoms in its early stages and can be detected in an eye health check. Diabetic retinopathy is caused by damage to the blood vessels in the back of the eye and often comes about in diabetics whose blood sugar levels aren’t controlled.
There are several other sight-threatening eye conditions that can be detected in early stages in routine eye tests.
What can an eye test do?
With early detection for these conditions, the chances of treatment and prevention of vision being lost is a lot higher.
In your eye health check, the optometrist will use a series of techniques to check that your eyes are healthy. An example of the technology that is used is the OCT scan (Optical Coherence Tomography). OCT is similar to ultrasound imaging but uses light instead of sound. It enables the optometrist to provide cross-sectional, detailed images of the back of the eye, so sight-threatening eye conditions can more accurately be detected.
Therapeutically endorsed optometrists can even prescribe eye drops that, with correct and daily use, can halt the progression of glaucoma, preserving one’s sight.
Who is at risk?
Once you turn 40, you’re more at risk of sight-threatening eye conditions. In fact, research has found that once you’re over 40, you have a 50% chance of developing an eye condition.
At the moment, 50% of Australians and New Zealanders with glaucoma don’t realise they have it, meaning that their sight is at risk.
The best thing to do is book in an eye test every two years unless recommended more regularly by your optometrist.