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Nine more reasons to get those eyeballs checked

| August 25, 2020 1:00 AM

Don’t forget to protect those peepers.

Founded in 1989 by Sears Optical to encourage back-to-school checks, August is National Eye Exam Month. Regular eye exams help detect eye problems when they’re most treatable.

But it’s not just about glasses. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, an eye exam can also provide warning signs of other serious health problems such as:

1. Cancer. Like skin, eyes are susceptible to sun damage. With early diagnosis, survival rates for eye cancer are very high.

2. Diabetes. People with diabetes have a higher risk of eye problems and conversely, eye doctors sometimes detect early signs of diabetes.

3. Rheumatoid arthritis. Dry or burning feelings in the eyes may indicate rheumatoid arthritis or other auto-immune inflammatory conditions.

4. STIs. Syphilis, steadily rising in the U.S. according to infectious disease data from the National Institutes of Health, is the most common sexually transmitted illness detectable by an eye doctor. Other types of STIs may also affect the eyes.

5. Stroke risk. Blood vessel blockages behind the eye pose a high stroke risk and can help with early warning and prevention, especially for seniors.

6. Thyroid disease. Thinning eyelashes are often overlooked as a common sign of aging, but could also indicate thyroid disease, cancer or rosacea. Retracting eyelids, bulging or dry eyes may also be signs of hyperthyroidism.

7. High blood pressure. Arteriovenous nicking (looks like a cross), bulging veins, or hemorrhaging at the retina often signify high blood pressure — a factor in heart disease — in time to facilitate lifestyle changes which can prevent heart problems.

8. Brain tumor. Pressure from brain tumors can cause changes to the optic nerve. Other signs of a brain tumor may include loss of side vision, double vision or pupil changes.

9. Vitamin A deficiency. Bugs Bunny knew what he was doing. Vitamin A deficiency can manifest as plaque buildup on the eye’s surface, dry eye, or vision changes.

When should you get your eyes checked? It depends on age, health and risk factors. Here are the general guidelines from the Mayo Clinic:

For children up to age 3, pediatricians look for common eye problems. A more comprehensive eye exam is recommended between ages 3 and 5.

School-age: Mayo recommends a vision check before children start first grade. After that, absent symptoms or family history of vision problems, every two years is recommended.

For adults without symptoms or vision problems, the recommended schedule is every five to 10 years for adults under 40; two to four years age 40 to 54; one to three years from 55 to 64; and every year after 65. Greater frequency is often recommended for those who need glasses or contacts.

There are three types of eye specialists, depending on personal preference and the nature of the problem.

Ophthalmologists are M.D.s who provide complete eye care from basic exams to complex diseases and surgery.

Optometrists also evaluate vision, prescribe corrective lenses, and can diagnose and treat common eye disorders. If the problem is more complex or requires surgery, they refer to ophthalmologists.

Opticians fill prescriptions for eyeglasses, and some also sell contact lenses. They don’t do health exams.

For more information, see the American Academy of Ophthalmology at Aao.org.

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Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network whose 40th birthday present was her first pair of glasses. “Contact” her at sholeh@cdapress.com.