One of the leading causes of falls — especially among seniors — is vision problems, ranging from minor visual changes that require nothing more than corrective lenses to serious diseases, including macular degeneration. If you’re having trouble seeing, are experiencing other symptoms, or are simply overdue for an examination, it’s time to see the eye doctor. Among other health benefits, getting your eyes checked is a big part of any fall-prevention regimen.
Types of Eye Doctors
If you don’t already have a relationship with an eye doctor, you’ll be referred to one by your healthcare provider or emergency medical care provider. For those who don’t have experience with eye doctors, it’s important to know that the term is used to describe a number of different occupations. When you make an appointment for an examination, be sure that you are seeing the appropriate practitioner. Three different levels of eye professionals are available, each with their own scope of practice, as All About Vision explains:
- Optician. Opticians aren’t doctors, and no college degree is required to be one, although many have at least an associate degree. Opticians cannot diagnose or treat eye diseases, instead, they use your prescription to assemble your new glasses or contact lenses.
- Optometrist. An optometrist has a doctorate of optometry degree (OD) but is not a physician. Their licenses and training limit them to performing eye exams, treating minor eye problems, and prescribing lenses. Optometrists screen for eye diseases and make frequent referrals to ophthalmologists.
- Ophthalmologist. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases. While optometrists can treat most minor eye problems, ophthalmologists perform extensive treatments and surgeries of the eye.
Common and Uncommon Vision Problems
Most visual problems result from uncorrected vision that can be improved by glasses or contacts, but other problems range in cause and severity. If you experience continual tearing, blurred or cloudy vision, severe eye pain that doesn’t go away, or vision loss, it’s time to see the eye doctor. Some symptoms and signs, however, indicate a need for immediate medical attention:
- Pain or visual changes after an eye or head injury might indicate a detached retina.
- Acute glaucoma is characterized by a sudden onset of redness, cloudy vision, or vision loss, often accompanied by pain.
- If you experience flu-like symptoms accompanied by pain in the temple(s), it might be a serious medical condition called temporal arteritis.
- If your eyes become red or sensitive to light and you see floating spots, see your eye doctor for possible iritis, which is an inflammation within the eye.
- An extremely serious eye infection called periorbital cellulitis is a possibility if you have a swollen and tender eye accompanied by fever.
More common and less threatening — unless they remain untreated — eye problems that might need an eye doctor’s intervention include pink eyes, sties, allergic reactions, scratched corneas, or chronic eye irritation called blepharitis.
As Cleveland Clinic explains, the eyes act as a window to your overall health, and eye doctors can detect many health issues ahead of time if exams are conducted regularly. Eye care should be near the top of a senior’s list of health priorities, especially since taking care of your vision can play a big part in fall prevention.