By: Ashley Ellis, O.D.
Oklahoma City Indian Clinic (OKCIC) offers a wide variety of health services, including Optometry for children and adults. Eye exams assess not only the need for glasses, but also the general health of the eyes. An eye exam can tell us a lot about the overall health of a patient, including potential complications of other diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and autoimmune disorders.
According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), it is estimated that 37 million adults over the age of 40 have vision impairment and age-related eye diseases in the United States, including diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and cataracts. Many of these conditions can be treated at early stages to prevent vision loss, but early detection is crucial.
Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in working aged adults 20-74 years old. Currently, according to the NEI, 7.7 million people have diabetic retinopathy and that number is expected to double to an estimated 14 million people by 2050. American Indians/Alaska Natives are the most likely individuals to have diabetes compared to other U.S. adults. All patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy, but there are typically no symptoms early in the disease. Diabetic retinopathy can include retinal bleeding, retinal swelling, leakage of blood vessels, new blood vessel growth and scarring of the back of the eye. All of these can contribute to loss of vision or blindness. It is recommended to have a yearly dilated eye exam to check for diabetic eye disease, eye exams may be require more often depending on the exam findings. OKCIC offers retinal imaging to screen for diabetic retinopathy, but may still recommend a full dilated exam. Diabetic retinopathy can be prevented by taking diabetic medication as prescribed, staying physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, and by controlling blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol.
Age-related macular degeneration impacts central vision. Dry macular degeneration occurs when the cells of the retina begin to break down and cannot recycle the waste products. Wet macular degeneration occurs when blood vessels behind the retina start to grow. Early macular degeneration can show no symptoms, however vision distortion and reduced central vision can occur at later stages. Age and smoking are the greatest risk factors for developing macular degeneration. Patients can prevent progression of age-related macular degeneration by consuming green leafy vegetables, taking multivitamins, wearing UV sunglasses and having dilated eye exams yearly, or more frequently if recommended.
Glaucoma is a disease that damages the optic nerve of the eyes and affects the peripheral vision. The optic nerve is like the cable cord from the eye to the brain. If this gets damaged, the signal to the brain is impaired. Glaucoma specifically causes peripheral vision loss. However, patients typically do not have any symptoms of this until severe stages. Eye pressure is one factor of glaucoma, but there are many additional tests that help diagnose patients with glaucoma. It is recommended to have a yearly eye exam, or more frequently if there is concern for glaucoma. Typical treatment for glaucoma includes eye drops, however laser surgery or other additional surgeries are available for more severe stages.
Cataracts are cloudiness of the lens inside the eye and can occur in one or both eyes. Cataracts typically occur with age, though diabetes, steroid use and smoking can cause early cataracts as well. Symptoms include blurry vision; dim vision; poor night vision, including glare from headlights; and colors may appear faded. Cataract surgery can correct for this condition by surgically removing and replacing the natural lens of the eye with a clear lens implant. Many times this can also reduce the need for glasses and patients may only need reading glasses after cataract surgery.
Presbyopia is an age-related vision disorder causing difficulty with near vision. This occurs naturally as people age, and most commonly occurring around age 40. Initially, it may seem like near vision is blurry, but holding things farther away can help. This condition continues to worsen with age and eventually, reading glasses or bifocals are typically recommended. Unfortunately, there has not been any prevention method found for this condition.
These eye conditions, along with a variety of other eye conditions can all be found on routine exams. The Optometry department at OKCIC recommends yearly dilated eye exams, especially for patients who are 65 years or older, patients with diabetes or patients who have previously been diagnosed with an eye disease. Dilated eye exams allow for the optometrists to see the back of the eye better and may give more insight about any precursors to potential conditions. Patients can anticipate dilation at any eye exam, which can cause light sensitivity and blurry vision, especially with near vision. Typically patients can drive home afterwards, however bringing a driver is recommended if you feel uncomfortable.
Due to the large patient base at OKCIC, the optometry department has a criteria to be able to be seen. However, if you have any questions about qualifying for optometry services, please call (405) 948-4900 ext. 390.
- 6 months to 18 years old
- 65 or older
- Patients with diabetes
- Referral by your Primary Care Provider