Frequently Asked Questions about Eye Care Answered
“Shoot, I just remembered I wanted to ask my eye doctor…” This happens to many of us – we forget to ask an important question during our annual visit or come up with new questions once we get home. Rather than put a reminder on your mobile phone to follow-up with the office, keep reading to learn the answers behind these common eye-related questions.
The information is grouped into common question areas including adult eye care, especially diseases we should look out for as we age; children’s eye care including eye health and safety; general questions about glasses and contacts, and the benefits of vision insurance. To get all the answers and more, we spoke with Dr. Chad Overman, director of vision benefits at Delta Dental of Iowa. Let’s start with some basics.
Tips for Keeping Your Adult Eyes Healthy
We hear this question a lot, “If I have 20/20 vision, do I still need an eye exam?” Yes. There are so many things medically that could be going wrong. For example, glaucoma is known as the silent killer. It can sneak up on you because a person’s vision is not always affected. Only an eye exam can detect glaucoma. It’s also important because during an eye exam, there are other things involved that are not directly related to vision clarity such as looking for signs of diabetes, hypertension and more. So, yes, even if your vision is great, you should get an eye exam at least every few years.
Speaking of diseases, what are some eye conditions that affect older adults? The first one that comes to mind is age related macular degeneration. It often starts in our mid-fifties and people who have someone in their family with the disease are more susceptible. Cataracts are also common for older adults, so it’s important to see your optometrist regularly to track any changes.
People who spend a lot of time looking at a computer screen all day often ask what they can do to reduce eye strain. Try to remember to relax your eyes every 20 minutes or so. Then, during this ‘break’ look far away and focus on something in the distance and blink. This will relax your eyes. It’s also important to have good lighting and be sure your computer is set slightly below your eye level.
Now here is something worth knowing the answer to: “Why does my eye twitch when I get stressed out?” According to Dr. Overman, your eye twitches when you get stressed because it's actually the stress causing the involuntary twitch. The eyes have the thinnest muscle, so you notice it first in the eye.
“Help! I can’t see the text on my smartphone without squinting. What’s going on?” Usually by the time we’re in our early to mid-forties, we start having trouble seeing up close. It’s because our eyes can no long focus the way they did when we were younger. The solution? You can increase the size of the font on your smartphone, but ultimately, it’s probably time for reading glasses.
While we’re on the topic of reading glasses, many people wonder if drugstore cheaters or readers are better or worse than what the eye doctor sells. Oftentimes in the eye, typically the over the counter readers will do the job as far as clarity, but keep in mind these glasses will not be specifically made for you. If you already wear corrective lenses, drugstore readers may not comfortably accommodate all of the needs of your current vision.
“I’m in the market for a new pair of glasses. Is it a big deal if I buy my glasses online?” Ordering classes online is definitely an option and there are some great quality frames and lenses found online. But don’t count out your local eye doctor; he or she can ensure your frames and lenses have the appropriate fit customized for you.
For the 45 million people in the U.S. who wear contacts, there is one question asked more than any others, “How long can I really wear my disposable contact lenses?” The answer is as long as recommended by the manufacturer. If it’s a daily lens, wear it for one day; if it’s a monthly lens, you should wear it a month. If you don’t follow the directions, you may not have problems right away. But Dr. Overman stresses to his patients, “If you continue to do it, you will eventually have a problem that you could have prevented by wearing your contacts correctly.”
Advice for Protecting Your Child’s Eyes
Many new parents often have the same question as their baby turns into a toddler, “When should my child have his or her first eye exam?” Dr. Overman suggests all children have an eye exam before Kindergarten to establish a baseline. From there, your doctor will tell you how often your child’s eyes should be examined. It’s good to note, though, that the State of Iowa requires all children to have a vision exam by third grade.
Another common concern among parents is pink eye. What do you do when your child gets pink eye and is the whole family going to get it? The news isn’t the best—if your child gets pinkeye you or another family member will probably get it too. Why? Because your child is usually contagious before you ever know they have it. Once diagnosed be sure that you go through your home and disinfect doorknobs, light switches and other commonly used household surfaces. Keep your child out of daycare, preschool or school for the length of time recommended by your doctor to avoid spreading the disease.
For parents whose children are participating in sports, they often ask whether their child should wear eye protection during contact sports. The short answer is yes. “There are just too many things that could happen and could be prevented if we put our child in protective eyewear,” says Overman.
The Best Way to Insure Your Eyes
There are other ways to protect your eyes, and one great way is to purchase vision insurance. As an employer, you could consider the question of whether covering eye insurance can increase employee productivity. Dr. Overman says without a doubt, offering vision insurance is a productivity booster. Covered employees tend to have less eyestrain leading to more productivity. Research published in the Vision Council’s 2015 Digital Eye Strain Report found that a company can reap $7,800 a year in productivity by making sure an employee has an eye exam each year—not to mention the savings in health insurance. Finding disease early saves costs.
For people new to vision insurance, one question to ask is what is typically covered in an individual or family insurance plan? Most often, plans will cover your exams, frames, and lenses. If you wear contact lenses, you can choose to get contacts in lieu of glasses. Some plans cover frames each year, while others only cover frames every other year.
At the crux of all these questions is how to keep the eyes of you and your family healthy. Is it all about the genes? Somewhat, but genes alone won’t keep us seeing clearly. What will help? Eat a variety of healthy foods – especially leafy greens and other vegetables, get plenty of sleep, and stop smoking. These are just three things that will ensure optimal eye health. And remember— make sure every two years you have an eye exam.