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#EyeGetDilated: A Vision Saving, Life Saving Exam

Guest blog post by Richard K. Lodwick, OD:

As I explain to most every patient, the view into the eye is a direct view into the body. Within the eye we have access to nerves and blood vessels that elsewhere are not visible to the clinician’s naked eye. With this view we are often able to see evidence of systemic disorders such as diabetes, hypertension and elevated cholesterol. Additionally, blood disorders such as anemia and certain cancers can be seen within the eye, as well as autoimmune disorders. Autoimmune disorders like Lupus and arthritis, among others, can manifest within the eye as inflammation. There are also cancers that present specifically within the eye and those that metastasize to the eye. In addition to these systemic conditions, there are diseases that affect vision directly, such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration. Most of these are painless, yet many go without a comprehensive eye examination that includes examination of the retina through a dilated pupil. 

The importance of a dilated eye exam at recommended intervals can be vision saving, if not life saving. As technology has improved there are also retinal cameras that provide an ultra-wide view of the retina, often benefiting in earlier detection. Early detection is the key to prognosis, whether it’s something affecting the eye and vision specifically or something occurring throughout the body.   

While the importance of a comprehensive eye examination is becoming more well known, there remains a misconception that vision screenings received at school or in a pediatrician’s or family doctor’s office are equal to an eye examination. There further seems to be more emphasis on teeth and seeing a dentist regularly than there is on ocular health. Too often people equate the eyes and vision to acuity, or only seeing well at a specified distance. However, vision screenings can offer a false sense of security by only evaluating acuity. With nearly 80% of what we learn passing through the eyes and the visual system, why wouldn’t it be questioned when we give more concern to having our teeth cleaned and examined? It should be common knowledge that our eyes are not replaceable. The American Optometric Association recommends a comprehensive eye examination beginning at age 3, then 5 and annually through development. There is also a program developed by the AOA called InfantSEE, where participating optometrists will provide an assessment of an infant’s visual system and ocular health one time at no cost prior to the age of 1. Recommendations for adults can vary depending on health, risk factors and age.  

In short, the list of diseases and disorders that can manifest within the eye is long. The importance of annual comprehensive eye examinations evaluating vision and ocular health through a dilated pupil in addition to the use of available technology should not be overlooked. 

The MRF’s CURE OM initiative is committed to increasing awareness of OM and the importance of dilated eye exams for early detection, and these efforts are made possible by your support. Please consider a tax-deductible gift today, and if you haven’t already, schedule your annual eye exam and tell your friends and loved ones that #EyeGetDilated!