Many people dislike seeking medical care for any reason. But when it comes to changes in your vision, do yourself a favor and get to an eye doctor.
Even before the time comes for frequent eye exams, men should first get in the habit of protecting their eyes. "One of the biggest differences between the health of women's and men's eyes is that guys suffer far more accidents," says Eric Donnefeld, MD, assistant clinical professor of Ophthalmology at Cornell University Medical College and a cornea and refractive surgeon at Ophthalmic Consultants of Long Island.
"Men should wear eye protectors around power equipment and while playing sports like racquetball or squash," he says. "I've seen many eye injuries caused by guys who were just hammering nails. But most men don't think about wearing eye protection for that."
The three primary types of eye protection—safety glasses, safety goggles, and face shields—are sometimes worn in combination. Experts say that handling chemicals, including lawn chemicals, requires goggles.
For any activity that involves chipping, grinding, riveting, sanding, banging, or masonry, safety goggles should be worn. The best goggles are those where the sides touch the skin all around, as particles can still fly up under glasses that are open on the sides. A face shield is often required if there are large flying objects or lots of debris.
One of the most consistent and predicable aging phenomena usually occurs in your 40s, when you begin having difficulty focusing on close images, such as a book. You must either hold printed matter at arm's length, or if nearsighted, take off your glasses entirely to clearly see what you are reading. This phenomenon is termed
presbyopia. The reason for the vision inconsistency is due to changes in the eye from normal aging. The lens of the eye becomes less pliable, and thus is unable to focus on close images. At that point, glasses, contact lenses, or surgery are required to focus at near.
Eye doctors also screen for disorders that, when caught early, can avert major problems later on. Ask your doctor for guidelines specific for your individual situation. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends a comprehensive eye examination as follows for healthy adults with low risk factors for eye disease:
- Age 6-40: every three years
- Age 40-65: every 2 years
You should be screened more often, or as directed by your doctor, if you:
- Are older than 65 years
Have risk factors for
or other eye diseases
- Have a family member who has glaucoma
- Have any other eye diseases that are inherited
- Have history of retinal detachment
- Have had a serious eye injury in the past
- Have persistent visual loss
high blood pressure, or other chronic illness
Cautionary Note: If you currently have eye symptoms, you should call your provider immediately for an evaluation. In case of an emergency, call for an ambulance immediately.
For most healthy men, glaucoma screening should start right around age 40, or sooner if they have a family history of the condition. Glaucoma increases pressure inside the eye and puts unhealthy pressure on the optic nerve. Moreover, there are several different types of the disorder. Left untreated, glaucoma can lead to blindness. Fortunately, medical science has several ways to control it. Unfortunately, most people do not know they have glaucoma until diagnosed during a comprehensive eye examination. While damage that has already occurred cannot be reversed, glaucoma progression can often be halted with medical treatment.
Men with diabetes are also at increased risk for glaucoma and yet another ailment known as diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes causes blood vessels within the eye to leak.
Cataracts—a clouding in the lens of the eye—usually come along about, or just after, the age of retirement, experts say.
The first signs of a cataract is a clouding or lessening of vision. The condition may first make itself known as a glare at night or trouble with oncoming headlights while driving. Or, a light bulb may be seen as a display of stars. Because cataracts are slowly progressive, many people do not even know that they have been losing vision. A cataract operation
is usually an elective procedure done to improve visual sharpness. Surgeons remove the cloudy lens in the eye and replace it with a man-made lens.
Which type of vision care practitioner should you see?
are physicians who specialize in the medical and surgical treatment of eye disorders. Ophthalmologists attend medical school, followed by a one year internship and at least three years of an ophthalmology residency program. They check eyes for vision problems, diseases, and abnormalities. They perform eye surgery, prescribe medication, and usually write prescriptions for glasses and contact lenses.
are not medical doctors, but hold a Doctor of Optometry degree. They perform examinations for glasses and contacts. They also diagnose and treat some eye disorders. The scope of practice of an optometrist varies from state to state, depending on that state’s laws. Some states allow optometrists to perform laser surgery or prescribe certain medications. Some optometrists also practice visual therapy to counter certain eye problems.
have less training than ophthalmologists or optometrists and cannot write prescriptions. They fit, supply, and adjust glasses, using a prescription from an ophthalmologist or an optometrist.