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Signs that you should see an optometrist

Signs that you should see an optometrist

Having healthy eyes is essential. Especially now that most of our time is spent looking at bright screens, or focusing near and far while driving; taking care of your eye health has never been more critical.

Our eyes take a significant strain and require a full annual examination by an optometrist, just like you would go for an annual physical check-up. 

What is an optometrist?

An optimist is a medical professional specialising in eye health and various eye diseases, their causes and prevention. Previously referred to as ophthalmic opticians, optometrists are primary healthcare specialists. They are trained to examine the eyes and detect defects in vision, signs of injury, ocular diseases or abnormalities and general health problems, Optometrists explains.

What is the difference between an ophthalmologist, optometrist and an optician?

This is a widespread question amongst patients who want to know who they need to book an appointment with. 

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor. Ophthalmologists can perform medical and surgical interventions for eye conditions, Healthline explains. An optician fits eyeglasses and other vision-correcting devices such as contact lenses.

There are many types of eye doctors in South Africa, but an optometrist is the one who will test your eyes to see if you need glasses. 

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who specialises in vision services such as testing, examining and prescribing eyewear; diagnosing, treating and everything to do with medical and surgical care of the eyes. 

Optometrists are their partners, and they usually refer clients to the ophthalmologist if they detect conditions that fall outside their scope of vision-care and eye-care services. 

Their services include: 

  • Eye examinations and vision tests; 
  • prescribing and fitting spectacles and contact lenses; 
  • Managing and treating conditions like glaucoma; 
  • monitoring eye conditions related to chronic diseases like diabetes; 
  • Vision therapy and providing low-vision products. 

Identifying problems and causes

There is a wide range of eye conditions that require frequent visits to an ophthalmologist or optometrist for monitoring. These include the hereditary or family eye disorders, macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.

Schedule an appointment immediately if you experience the following changes to your vision: 

  • Swollen red eyes.
  • Colour changes in the iris.
  • Patches of white on the pupil of the eye
  • Seeing: bolts of light, flashes of bright floating spots, rainbows or auras around lights, floating “spider webs”, “curtain coming down” over one eye, “cup filling up with ink” in the other eye.
  • Having hazy, blurred or double vision, severe eye pain, constant pain in or around the eye, a heavy discharge from the eyes with itching and burning, a sudden change in vision, the sudden appearance of persistent floaters.
  • Experiencing unusual, often painful, sensitivity to light or glare.

According to Visionaware.org, there are various daily activities that may be key indications that there are visual problems, notably when it comes to movement. 

These include: 

  • walking or stepping out cautiously; 
  • feet shuffling, bumping into walls when walking; 
  • finding walking up and downstairs a challenge; 
  • walking with difficulty on irregular or bumpy surfaces and missing an object when reaching out to it. 

A lack of ability for colour and pattern coordination and identifying colours, not recognising people or objects, not watching television or giving up reading, driving, walking or doing hobbies and problems like not getting food onto a fork or knocking over water are all indications that the eyes are failing. 

Natural remedies and foods for eye health

When it comes to any health condition, including eye health, losing weight helps in decreasing inflammation, controlling high blood pressure, diseases of the arteries, Everydayhealth.com reports. Keeping diabetes under control is key as high blood sugar levels contribute to cataracts and damages small arteries such as fine blood vessels in the retina, which leads to diabetic retinopathy.

Regular exercise such as daily walks helps to limit the impact of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes on chronic eye conditions. 

Along with that, avoid tobacco smoke, which generates the chemicals – free radicals – that destroy cells and tissues and do major damage to eyes. 

A variety of plant-based foods 

‘Eat the rainbow’ is the saying in nutritional health circles – the more varied and colourful the vegetables and fruit on your plate the better it will be when it comes to slowing down the absorption of cholesterol and sugar. Colourful plants from blue, purple and red berries to different kinds of greens, yellow peppers to orange papayas are super-rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients and these together with zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids assist in strengthening blood vessels. 

And at the beginning and end of the day, drink some green tea as it too protects against diabetes and heart disease, helping to defend against retinal and lens damage where cataracts form. 

Do you need glasses?

There are a few signs and symptoms (besides blurry vision) that can be indicators that you should get your eyes tested.

Agustin Gonzalez, OD, FAAO, an optometrist in private practice in Richardson, Texas, told All About Vision; “The classic symptoms of needing glasses include headaches, eye aches, frowning and squinting.

Flashes and floaters, sudden loss of vision or eye pain are things that should be looked at immediately.”

People who need glasses also sometimes experience double vision, seeing “halos” around lights and even have eyes that are sensitive to bright lights.

Keeping a close eye on the eyes

With regular check-ups and changes toward healthier living with nutritious food and exercise, good eye health can be maintained into advanced age. And if you do develop chronic eye diseases such as cataracts, retinopathy, glaucoma and macular degeneration, they can be detected and treated sooner.

When you book an eye test, you need to call the office of the optometrist of your choice and get the next available date from the secretary. Consultations start from around R600, depending on where you live.

Does Affinity health cover optic health?

Affinity Health’s day-to-day cover offers a benefit for optometry. Affinity has a partnership with Specsavers, which includes an

annual eye test per beneficiary and free lenses and frames every 24 months.

Services must be obtained from a network-registered optometrist. There is a limit put on prescriptions of white standard mono or bifocal lenses with a basic frame.

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