By Dan Roberts
Why do so many of us neglect to protect our vision, when all it takes is an eye exam? We’re vigilant about safeguarding our material things, our reputations, cars, credit cards. So why would we trust our precious peepers to the whims of fate?
Maybe some of us ignore our eyes simply because we can see just fine, but appearances can be deceiving. Most eye diseases are subtle in their early stages, with no visible symptoms until they get a strong grip on us. A check-up can stop a developing problem in its tracks.
In addition to peering into our dilated eyes, doctors use gadgets so sophisticated they can identify the slightest abnormalities long before we see anything wrong. A computerized laser scanner can spot lurking blood vessels readying to flood a retina. Another device can find starving sight cells by simply analyzing the density of a retina’s color. And yet another is able to identify potential blind spots before they happen. This is all relatively low-tech equipment that is saving the sight of thousands of people who get to their doctors in time.
And what if they discover that we have a chronic eye disease? No cures exist yet, so what’s the point of an early diagnosis? The best answer is that it buys us time to possibly delay significant vision loss. Treatments for that are being developed at an exponential rate and new drugs are now saving the sight of millions of people. Nutritional supplements are slowing sight loss. Stem cell therapy is showing promise in trial subjects. Recent successes with gene therapy are guiding the way to cures. And hundreds of clinical trials are currently underway to develop even more interventions like these.
But doesn’t it make good practical and economic sense to put prevention before intervention? If all goes well, we’re going to live a long time. So if we want to make our treasure of sight last as long as we do, we had better invest in it wisely. The comparatively small outlay of time and money for dilated eye exams is a good first step toward a lifetime of good vision.
For more about eye exams and good eye health practices, visit the WebMD Eye Health Center.
Dan Roberts is Editor-in-Chief of Living Well with Low Vision from Prevent Blindness and founding director of Macular Degeneration Support. He retired from public school teaching and church music ministry in 1994 as a result of his visual impairment. He and his wife, Christina, have 3 children and seven grandchildren.