Fergus Falls Optometric Center
"Family Eyecare from the Eyecare Family."
Dr. Mark D. Olmsted and Dr. Christine A. Olmsted
117 E. Lincoln Ave.
Fergus Falls, MN 56537
Appointments: 218-736-7555

But I See Fine, Doc…

But I See Fine, Doc…

By Dr. Mark D. Olmsted

Occasionally, we run into patients that wait until their glasses have deteriorated to ‘dust in the wind’ before they schedule an appointment for an eye exam. Sometimes it’s over a decade for some of these people. When I’m taking the case history and ‘Mr. Doe’ says, “it’s been many years since my last exam”, my typical follow-up question is, “Who was President then?”

People who have had refractive surgery will often stop coming back for regular eyecare, because they feel that they are “seeing fine” and they “don’t need glasses anymore.”

Sometimes we get appeals to fill outdated glasses or contact lens prescriptions. We relay to the party making the request that an eye exam is overdue. When we also mention that we can’t comfortably fill the Rx without a new exam, there can be occasional negativity. This should not be the case. As doctors of optometry we always have the patient’s EYE HEALTH at the head our priority list. This is a top reason why there is an expiration date on the correction in the first place, typically one year.

Just this week I ran into every one of the above situations. For many years the profession of optometry has been trying to change the mindset of “J.Q. Public” from thinking about eye examinations as being primarily about corrective eyewear and perceived quality of vision. While there is very often a subtle visual correction change, lately I have been using a new spin on my language when presenting this thought process to people. I tell patients to think of an eye exam as “physical for your eyes”.

Early detection of eyeturns, functional vision problems, and the need for glasses in children is so very critical to their development and learning skills. For the rest of us, preventative regular eyecare is important, not only in being sure that one can see clearly to function at work, school, and safely behind the wheel of a vehicle, BUT to be sure that eye conditions or diseases like cataract, glaucoma, and macular degeneration, are not missed.

Likewise, an eye exam will sometimes uncover clues about systemic diseases like skin cancer, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, thyroid disease, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, stroke, carotid artery blockage, etc. Over the last 25 years, I have detected suspicious findings for all of the systemic conditions mentioned. These led to referrals to the appropriate type of medical professional, confirmation of the diagnosis, and subsequent treatment. This is a major and very important part of an optometrist’s role in the healthcare system. ANY eye doc who has been doing this as long as I’ve been will have run into most, all, or even more of the diseases I just talked about.

I’m not here to tell you that vision correction is not still a very important part of the examination. I will also acknowledge that there ARE times that nothing changes between visits. What I am here to tell you is that if you are not getting regular, annual, professional, comprehensive eye exams, that you are putting yourself at the risk of missing eye problems that could be robbing your sight.

Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that can gradually and very sneakily destroy a person’s vision permanently, if it goes undetected. When detected, this condition is treated by us with the proper medication. Whenever I diagnose a new case of glaucoma, it often seems to be a senior citizen who hasn’t been examined since President Bush was in office…the FIRST President Bush. These are the cases that can be very advanced. LASIK patients who don’t follow the surgeon’s or referring optometrist’s advice about regular exams after the surgery can also fall into the missed glaucoma trap. Continually filling an old spectacle prescription without an exam can also lead to missed conditions.

Retinal holes, tears, or detachments are another problem that may or may not have symptoms. A full-blown detached retina can be very devastating to a person’s sight, especially if it’s not promptly treated, in which case blindness in the affected eye is a probable reality. I recently had a patient in the exam chair that has come to me annually for many years. The person had no complaints, no symptoms, and the glasses prescription had not changed. However, when I dilated the pupils of this individual the first thing that I saw was a new tear in the upper retina of one eye. I picked up the phone and set the patient up to see a retinal surgeon, who fixed the problem the next morning with a laser. That treatment prevented the tear from progressing to a partial or full detachment.

I hope that these examples clearly illustrate the point that I’m striving to convey. That is…get your eyes checked annually as a preventative measure, even if nothing seems to be wrong. Make it a part of your regular healthcare program. And please take it easy on your eyecare professionals and their staff, if they stand their ground by not filling your obsolete prescriptions. It is truly in the spirit of keeping your best interest in mind. If you’ve read this far I now pose this question: When was the last time you had YOUR eyes checked?