Your Eyes: 3 Things Your Eye Doctor Wants You to Know

Eye health

When was the last time you thought about the health of your eyes? Like many of us, you may take your eyesight for granted.

Ophthalmology expert John Sutphin, MD, understands this and shares the top three things your eye doctor wants you to know. 

Protecting your eyes is more important than you think

"We cringe when we see someone doing something dangerous without eye protection because we see patients who have had permanently blinding accidents," said Dr. Sutphin. "Please wear safety glasses when using a hammer, mowing the lawn or doing anything where something can fly into your eye."

If you do get hit in the eye, see a doctor if your vision is blurry or the pain lasts more than an hour.

He also stresses that it's important to shield your eyes from too much sun. Too much exposure can cause cataracts and other eye conditions. Dr. Sutphin suggests wearing sunglasses that block UV light. If you're outdoors often or spend a lot of time around water, wear polarized sunglasses and a hat to reduce the sun's glare.

You may not know how often to get your eyes examined

If you don't have vision issues, Dr. Sutphin suggests the following examination schedule:

  • By age 5 – once
  • Around age 12 – once again
  • Before age 40 – once again
  • Right after age 40 – once again
  • After age 40 – once every four years
  • After age 40, for people of color – every two years due to an increased risk of glaucoma

This general schedule is not for people with medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or dry eyes. It's also not for those with specific risk factors or a family history of glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration.

"In general, as long as your eyes are healthy and you're seeing well, an annual examination isn't necessary," said Dr. Sutphin. "But if you notice changes in your eyesight, experience any pain or see things such as sparkles, floaters or flashes, you really should see an ophthalmologist."

When you're between eye exams, feel free to try out those over-the-counter reading glasses if you have trouble reading close up. "But if they're not helping, it might be a sign of another issue and you should see your eye doctor."

Blindness is preventable

"Of course, people fear blindness," said Dr. Sutphin. "But most cases of blindness are treatable and don't result in the full loss of sight."

Five common conditions contribute to the majority of sight loss.

  • Cataracts
    A cataract is the clouding of the normally clear lens on your eye. Onset is gradual, but the condition is entirely treatable with outpatient surgery that's highly successful.

  • Glaucoma
    Glaucoma usually occurs as fluid builds in the front part of your eye, damaging the optic nerve. The disease progresses gradually, but early detection and treatment can help preserve vision.

  • Amblyopia
    Amblyopia, often called "lazy eye," is when one eye develops and the other does not. "Children should be screened by age 5 to detect the disorder," said Dr. Sutphin. "Fixing the problem early can prevent vision loss in the future."

  • Age-related macular degeneration
    Age-related macular degeneration occurs when the eye's macula – part of the retina – breaks down or deteriorates. "People are living longer, so we're seeing this more than ever," he said. "The condition is treatable but only if it's caught early. If you have a family history of the disease, you should get examinations early and regularly."

  • Refractive error
    Refractive errors cause blurred vision when the eye prevents light from focusing on the retina. "Essentially, refractive error means someone needs glasses," said Dr. Sutphin. "It's not at all serious, but if it worsens over a lifetime it can cause severe vision loss."

Request an appointment with an ophthalmology specialist.