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Why a Simple Eye Test Can Save Your Life

Posted 4/12/2016 by UHBlog

Deteriorating eyesight can be a sign of something serious, including brain tumors. See us for a comprehensive eye exam to keep tabs on your vision.

Why a Simple Eye Test Can Save Your Life

If you’ve ever visited an eye doctor or purchased eye glasses, you’ve probably noticed the number of tests and procedures used to examine your eyes. But did you know that some of these exams can save your vision – and possibly your life?

According to ophthalmologist Douglas Rhee, MD, many eye and vision problems have no signs or symptoms, so you may not realize your deteriorating vision is linked to something more serious.

“Many eye and brain disorders have no warning signs,” he says. “In that sense, it’s like high blood pressure, which often doesn’t have obvious symptoms. But if high blood pressure is left untreated, it might make you susceptible to health problems, such as a stroke or heart attack.”

Visual impairments are on the rise, Dr. Rhee says, primarily because of the increase in the number of Americans turning 65 and older each year. With the maturing of Americans, the likelihood of developing eye conditions multiplies. Some of these eye diseases include:

  • Age-related macular degeneration – This affects the macula – or the central part of the retina – which enables you to see fine details, such as those used during reading and driving
  • Cataract – This is a clouding of the eye’s lens
  • Diabetic retinopathy – This usually affects both eyes by progressively damaging the blood vessels of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye that is necessary for good vision. It’s a common complication of diabetes
  • Glaucoma – Which is a group of diseases that can damage the eye’s optic nerve
  • Ocular hypertension – This occurs when the pressure in your eyes is higher than normal, contributing to other complications
  • Uncorrected refractive error – It’s a common eye disorder where the eye can’t clearly focus on images, resulting in blurred vision

Other times, deteriorating vision or vision loss is due to neurological problems, such as a brain tumor. A brain tumor’s symptoms might include blurred vision, double vision or loss of peripheral vision, causing you to think the problem is with your eyes. Read about a patient whose eye exam revealed a brain tumor.

If your doctor suspects a problem with your central and/or peripheral vision, you’ll probably undergo a visual field test.

“You rest your chin on a tray and while looking into an automated machine, you’re presented with flashes of light, representing specific patterns,” Dr. Rhee says. “You click a button each time you see the flashes.”

The visual field test takes about five minutes per eye. Plus, with this test, there is no need to dilate your eyes.

“The patterns of loss found through the visual field test can be indicative of numerous diseases, such as glaucoma,” Dr. Rhee says. “Glaucoma is very treatable, but it’s not curable. Even with the best of treatment, about 10 percent of people can still go blind.”

Additionally, a visual field test can help to detect other health conditions, such as:

  • Brain tumors
  • Various diseases of the optic nerve
  • Strokes which affect the occipital lobe in the brain

“That's why it’s important to see your eye doctor regularly,” Dr. Rhee says. “It’s part of your preventative care, and will help to ensure you’re taking good care of yourself and your eyes.”

Douglas Rhee, MD is an ophthalmologist, chairman, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, and director, Eye Institute, at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Dr. Rhee or any other University Hospitals doctor online.

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