If you are having issues with your eyes or vision, the doctor you should seek care from is an eye care specialist.
“An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who evaluates for and treats medical and surgical diseases of the eye,” says Christine Saad, MD, ophthalmologist and Associate Chief, Department of Surgery, Division of Ophthalmology, at LVPG Ophthalmology–Fogelsville.
Ophthalmologists specialize in treating eye health problems, such as dry eye syndrome, eyelid conditions such as blepharitis and styes, cataracts, diabetic eye disease, glaucoma or macular degeneration. But there are many reasons you may be referred to an ophthalmologist for treatment. We asked Saad about signs it's time to schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist, and what to expect for care.
“The main takeaway home is that many serious eye conditions are silent until too far advanced, such as diabetic eye disease, glaucoma or macular degeneration. Regular eye exams should be part of an individual’s health assessment,” says Saad. “Eye redness, pain, light sensitivity and vision changes can be signs of a more concerning acute eye disease and need a formal assessment/eye exam.”
Q: As a patient, what can someone expect from an appointment with an ophthalmologist?
Saad: An ophthalmologist performs a full eye exam, which includes vision assessment, assessment of peripheral vision, eye pressure check, microscopic assessment of the eye, and a dilated exam to look inside the eyes to assess the optic nerve and retina. Assessment for glasses is sometimes performed as well.
Q: What are signs you need to see an ophthalmologist?
Saad: There are multiple signs that may indicate you should see an ophthalmologist. Here are five.
Sign 1: You are having vision changes.
If you have intermittent vision changes that improve with blinking, this can be a sign of dry eye. A gradual decline in vision could indicate a need to update glasses, but also could be a sign of a medical condition such as a cataract. Finally, if you are having distortion in central vision or flashes, floaters, shadows or curtains over the vision, these could be signs of a retinal problem and require a more urgent assessment when symptoms are new or acute.
Sign 2: You are having eye dryness.
Dry eyes can be extremely uncomfortable and worsen with time. Symptoms can sometimes affect an individual’s ability to read or use the computer for extended time periods. In severe cases, chronic dry eye can result in corneal scarring. To check for this, an ophthalmologist assesses the eyes under a slit lamp. A yellow stain called fluorescein is instilled into the eyes to check the tear film and examine the cornea.
Sign 3: Your eyes are red/bloodshot.
Eye redness may not be a sign of anything serious. Some individuals normally have red eyes. However, redness can be a sign of dryness or inflammation affecting the external or internal aspect of the eyes. A sudden bright red spot can indicate a broken blood vessel, which is not normally concerning but becomes a concern with recurrence. But redness accompanied by pain needs to be assessed by your ophthalmologist. An assessment includes a vision assessment and slit lamp exam, but may include a dilated exam as well.
Sign 4: You have pain in your eyes.
Eye pain can be a sign of a local eye issue like dry eye, episcleritis which is inflammation of the eye wall or intraocular inflammation called uveitis. Headaches and sinus disease also can cause eye pain. A person with eye pain needs an ophthalmic assessment to rule out eye disease as the cause of pain.
Sign 5: You have headaches/pressure in your eyes.
Eye pressure should be assessed to ensure there is no evidence of glaucoma. Oftentimes, headaches/eye pressure are not a sign of an eye problem but could be a neurological or sinus-related issue. Glaucoma is a sight-threatening condition, often associated with elevated eye pressure, but is usually silent. A person does not have symptoms from glaucoma until the disease is advanced and the individual is at risk for going blind.
Learn more at LVHN.org/ophthalmology. For questions or to schedule an appointment, call 484-273-4390.