I've worked extensively with individuals with vision loss. I hold an M.S. degree in rehabilitation counseling from East Carolina University.
7 Warning Signs of Vision Loss
People don’t think about losing vision until some aspect of life is drastically altered because of it. According to some conservative numbers, approximately 40 million individuals will face such a prospect as Baby Boomers age and children are born with disabilities. For this reason, knowing the warning signs of vision loss is important. If you feel there may be some loss of vision because of several warning signs, then you can find appropriate help from an eye care professional.
Below are some warning signs of vision loss. They are not the only signals that your eyesight may be changing, but they are some indications that you may require professional attention.
As a rehabilitation counselor, I often take my clients to the eye doctor's office. I would review recommendations with my clients after receiving the eye report. If my clients required rehabilitation services, I would send them to a rehabilitation center, where they may temporarily stay in facilities such as the one in the photo above. But one of the most important aspects of working with my caseload was finding out about a person's visual disability from the eye doctor.
These signs will help you notice when a change is occurring in your sight so you can better interact with professionals who can help you:
- Is reading regular print difficult? Do you have to "lean in" to read a book? Do you have to hold written documents close to your face? Are colors becoming harder to distinguish?
- Are you seeing "floaters" in your vision? These are spots of blackness or grey in your sight which appear to move or remain in one place.
- Are you running into open doors? Are you colliding into corners or cabinets?
- Do you tend to trip over objects? Do you miss the curb when stepping off the sidewalk? Can you tell when you are approaching a flight of stairs?
- Are you having trouble seeing people's faces? Do you have trouble reading signs when you drive?
- Do you have to sit close to the TV or computer screen to see what others can see sitting farther away?
- Are you unable to see at night? Are you seeing flashes of light in your vision?
Types of Vision Care Specialists
If you suspect you may be experiencing vision loss, there are different eye care professionals you can seek out for help. Each of these professionals has different levels of training and expertise in eye care. When you think your vision is changing, the best approach is to see one of these eye care specialists. They can help in many instances. As a rehabilitation counselor, I worked with these eye care specialists when they assisted my clients with visual impairments. Having these professionals working with you gives you a chance to resolve most sight-related issues:
- Ophthalmologist: The ophthalmologist is a medical doctor. He/she is trained to treat eye diseases, perform eye surgeries, and prescribe medicine. He/she conducts eye examinations and can prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses.
- Optician: The optician is a technical practitioner. He/she designs and fits lenses to correct visual problems. This professional also may make frames for spectacles and other devices. But the optician uses prescriptions provided by the ophthalmologist or an optometrist.
- Optometrist: The optometrist is an eye care professional trained in managing changes in vision. The optometrist is involved in testing vision and diagnosing diseases. He/she is not a medical doctor. However, this eye care professional can treat eye diseases and prescribe glasses and contact lenses.
How to Prepare for Your Appointment With the Eye Doctor
Going to a vision care professional can be one of the most important acts a person can do to protect his/her eyes if seeing is becoming difficult. Eye care specialists can be found in cities, rural areas, or working for government agencies. Often, eye care specialists make visits to schools to do eye exams for students and others at gyms or other facilities, as shown in the picture.
An internet search may reveal that you have such specialists in unexpected places, like a shopping center. Although going to get your sight checked out can be an anxiety-creating situation, there are things you can do to minimize your nervousness. Here are some things to expect and what you can do to prepare if it is your first time at the eye doctor’s office.
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When you visit your eye care professional, be ready to provide certain information. The doctor may want to know about your past/current health and medical history. This includes medications you are taking. This information helps the eye doctor look at the medications or relevant genetic factors which could have influenced a change in your vision. Also, if the eye doctor dilates your eyes, then you may want to bring a friend or family member to drive you home afterwards because it may take some time for the eyes to recover. Finally, be aware of the cost of your appointment and whether your insurance will cover all or part of it.
What Will Happen During the Eye Exam?
The eye care specialist will use several techniques and procedures to look at your vision; he/she will need any important details you can provide. For this reason, be ready to provide information about your primary care physician. Additionally, if you have sunglasses, eyeglasses, or contact lenses you use regularly, bring them to the appointment.
Below are some of the tests you can expect to be performed at the comprehensive examination, which is focused on looking at the health of the eye and detecting diseases in the early stages. On the other hand, routine eye exams are focused on updating glasses and contacts, screening for eye diseases, and checking on vision. In essence, a routine exam helps establish a diagnosis, but the comprehensive examination determines the current health and functioning of vision.
Tests Conducted at Comprehensive Eye Exams
- Slit Lamp Test: This test looks for any microscopic abnormalities of the eye. It is often known as “biomicroscopy.” The doctor uses the lamp to look at the front of the eyes.
- Eye Charts: These standardized charts are how the eye doctor checks visual acuity, or sharpness of the eyes. The Snellen Eye Chart is one such example. The eye doctor will ask you to read the lines of letters to determine your visual clarity and distance vision.
- Cover/Uncover Test: The vision care specialist uses this exam to determine the alignment of your eyes. He/she wants to examine how well your eyes are working together. The eye care doctor places an object briefly in front of one eye, and then he/she removes it. The patient is given directions regarding looking at objects or in a particular direction.
- Glaucoma Exam: This test is also called “Applanation tonometry.” It consists of the eye doctor numbing the eye through drops; he/she will then measure the fluid pressure in the eye.
- Retinal Examination Through Pupil Dilation: Dilation provides the vision care professional with a way to view the inside of the eye. This is how the eye doctor can view the optic nerve and retina at the back of the eye. Eye diseases which may otherwise go undetected can be caught in the early stages because of this exam.
- Use of a Phoropter: This device is operated manually by the eye doctor. It has several lenses which the doctor moves around to determine the exact shape of the lens necessary to correct your vision to a normal level. The vision care professional is examining refraction with the device.
Eye exam - About - Mayo Clinic. February 1, 2018. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/eye-exam/about/pac-20384655
What is a comprehensive dilated eye exam? | National Eye Institute. February 1, 2018. Retrieved from: https://nei.nih.gov/healthyeyes/eyeexam
What to Expect When Your Eyes Are Dilated - American Academy of Ophthalmology. Retrieved from: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/drugs/what-to-expect-eyes-are-dilated
This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on September 29, 2019:
The latest development in eye care is the introduction of artificial intelligence to the field. Currently, the FDA is looking at one such algorithm which may be approved to help diagnose diabetic retinopathy. After scanning thousands of photos of the diseased retina, the program calculates whether or not the person has the visual problem. It has been shown to be as accurate as some long- time physicians. Although approval is years away, the artificial intelligence system will hopefully reduce cost and allow better treatment options for people in low income countries. In the meantime, visiting a well trained physician in eye care is the best choice for determining if there are problems with your vision. Thanks for reading.
Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on January 29, 2018:
According to one study, one of the biggest fears people have is loosing vision. Eye care professionals are trained to assist individuals with vision loss to stop the progression of disease or help with saving any vision. People in the rehabilitation field assist with maximizing the use of any remaining visual functioning. However, the first step is visiting with an eye care professional.