***image1***February is famous for cupid, candy and overpriced roses. The fact that it also is National Vision Awareness Month sometimes gets shuffled to the back burner. Take good vision for granted now and be prepared to wear glasses later.
“People should be aware of their vision year round,” said Col. Todd Hess, chief of Head and Neck Surgery and the director of the War Fighter Refractive Surgery Program, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. “Catching a vision problem early is critical to successfully treat the problem.”
Common problems like holes, scarring or inflammation of the retina can exist without causing immediate vision loss. Given enough time, vision loss will occur.
“The aforementioned retina problems can exist without affecting the central retina,” said Colonel Hess. “If we catch them early enough, they can be taken care of before the center of vision is damaged.”
Glaucoma, a disease that makes the optic nerve sensitive to pressure, can lead to either tunnel vision or complete blindness, said Colonel Hess.
“We can stop the progression, but any vision loss is permanent,” he said.
Cataracts, which can affect both the elderly and diabetics, are another vision problem that can successfully be treated if detected early enough.
“We can treat mild cases by making adjustments to the patient’s glasses,” he said. “When glasses are no longer an option, we can correct the problem through surgery.”
Colonel Hess said that adults should have an eye exam every two years no matter how good their eyesight may currently be.
“Even if you think that you are doing well, you still need to be checked,” he said.
Three keys to maintaining good vision are regular eye exams, glaucoma pressure checks for people 40 and older and the wearing of protective eyewear.
“A full eye exam, complete with dialation, takes approximately 45 minutes,” said Colonel Hess. Just don’t go operating any heavy machinery afterward because an eye dialation will cause temporary blurred vision.”
Pressure checks will reveal a developing glaucoma, and protective eyewear is necessary in any activity that involves small projectiles flying around. Backyard weed-eating, BB-guns, spot welding and paintball are some activities to avoid unless proper eyewear is available.
“Doing any of those things without proper eyewear is a disaster waiting to happen,” said Colonel Hess.
To schedule an eye exam, call the optometry clinic at the nearest medical treatment facility. Active-duty members will receive priority when scheduling appointments. Depend-ents and retirees will be seen on a space available basis, which varies from clinic to clinic.