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Ask a Doc: See 20/20 at 40 and beyond
by Trevin R. Wallin, M.D.
Sep 25, 2010 | 2651 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As a practicing ophthalmologist, one of the most frequent questions I am asked is, “How often do I need to see you?” The answer to that question varies. Age and presence of eye disease or a family history of eye disease helps determine how often a visit to the eye doctor is required. Even if there are no concerns with vision, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends a baseline eye disease screening at age 40. If all looks well, then a visit every two-four years is typically advised. After 55, every one-three years is appropriate. If risk factors such as a family history of eye disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure are present then more frequent visits are necessary.

During a baseline screening, a thorough evaluation of the visual system is performed. Vision is checked, an eyeglass prescription is obtained, eye pressure is measured, and the entire eye is evaluated for any abnormalities. Many diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure can cause changes in the eye even before the condition is diagnosed or the patient is aware of any problems.

From 2000-2020 the prevalence of the most common type of glaucoma will increase 50 percent to 3.3 million people in the United States. At the time of diagnosis, most patients have not noticed any visual changes. Eye drops or other treatments can help maintain vision over time.

Unfortunately, diabetes is becoming ever more prevalent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have estimated that 7 percent of the population has diabetes. In adults over 40 with diabetes, two of every five will have signs of diabetic retinopathy. When detected early, vision-threatening complications are more readily treated and good eyesight maintained.

We live in an era of wonderful medical advances, and care for the eye is no exception. Age-related macular degeneration now has treatments that may help restore vision. This is a great leap forward for a visually devastating disease.

A cataract, which is a clouding of the lens, is corrected during a brief outpatient procedure, and most patients resume normal activity the following day. Patients have many choices when it comes to the artificial lens that is implanted during the procedure. If increased freedom from glasses is desired, specialized lenses can be implanted that can correct for astigmatism (irregular cornea) or presbyopia (difficulty seeing near) while maintaining good distance vision.

Just as mammograms and colon screenings are important preventtive measures, an eye disease screening at 40 is vital to maintaining a lifetime of good vision.

Dr. Trevin Wallin is a member of the team of physicians and medical staff at Davis Hospital and Medical Center in Layton. A native of Bountiful, he attended the University of Utah School of Medicine. To contact Dr. Wallin, call 801-773-0690 or e-mail wallin@insighteyespecialists.com.

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