As many as two-thirds of US adults don’t have 20/20 vision. This is the vision range that allows a person to clearly see and read what’s on an eye chart from 20 feet away. That’s why eye doctors consider 20/20 vision as the “optimal” range.
That said, more than 7 million people in the US who are 16 years or older have some form of visual disability. Such disabilities include corneal problems, cataracts, and glaucoma to name a few.
So, if you’ve been asking, “when should I see an ophthalmologist?”, now is likely a good time. This is especially important if you haven’t seen one ever or you haven’t in a long time. It’s even more crucial if you’re experiencing certain symptoms.
Ready to learn all about when to see an eye doctor or a vision specialist? Then let’s dive right into it!
Why and When Should I See an Ophthalmologist and Not An Optometrist?
An optometrist provides primary vision care, including vision testing. These eye care professionals are also experts in diagnosing and treating vision problems. However, they aren’t medical doctors.
Ophthalmologists, on the other hand, are medical doctors. They specialize in anything and everything related to the eyes and vision health. They’ve had more training and education than optometrists.
That said, you can go to an optometrist if you simply want your eyes examined. If you have an eye disease, however, it’s best to see an ophthalmologist.
On that note, let’s go over some of the symptoms that warrant a trip to an ophthalmologist.
- If You’re in Your 40s
In the US, at least 12 million people aged 40 and older suffer from vision impairment. Of these individuals, at least one million are blind. Two in three, however, have vision problems caused by uncorrected refractive error.
Since age is a top risk factor for vision problems, it’s best to see an ophthalmologist by the time you hit your 40s. In fact, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends this. Getting a comprehensive eye exam at age 40 is key to detecting vision changes or eye diseases.
- Eye Conditions Run In the Family
Genetic eye conditions include albinism, astigmatism, color blindness, and glaucoma among many others. In fact, there are over 350 known eye diseases associated with genes.
This doesn’t mean that you have to live with them just because of your genetic predisposition. Many of these conditions are treatable and even curable, so long as you get diagnosed early.
If your parents have had any of these eye conditions, it’s best not to wait until you’re 40 to see an eye doctor. Get a comprehensive eye examination with an ophthalmologist now. This way, the eye specialist can catch any problem with your eyes — genetic or not — and treat it right away.
- Sudden Severe Headaches or Eye Pain
More than three million people in the US have glaucoma. It’s a disease of the optic nerve caused by excessive pressure in the eye. It comes in two main types: open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma.
Open-angle glaucoma is more common and, in many cases, doesn’t have early-stage symptoms. Whereas angle-closure glaucoma develops very quickly and often comes with severe headaches. Aside from head pain, it can also make your vision blurry or hazy.
Headaches may also occur in people who have Behçet disease. After all, over 50% of those with this disease also have uveitis, a type of inflammatory eye condition. In some cases, the inflammation can cause eye pain as well as headaches.
Many other eye conditions, like astigmatism, can also result in headaches and eyestrain. The pain can be severe enough to be debilitating. That’s why you should never underestimate persistent headaches.
Instead, take these as an indication of when to see an ophthalmologist. This way, your eye doctor can help pinpoint the cause of your suffering.
- Sudden Loss of Night Vision
Speaking of uveitis, it may also cause night blindness, according to https://umbrella-scientific.us/. Night blindness refers to having poor vision not only at night but also in low-light settings.
In addition, uveitis may also lead to a loss of color vision. This is a condition marked by the inability to differentiate between certain colors.
Note that uveitis symptoms not only develop quickly — the disease itself can quickly go from bad to worse. What’s more, untreated uveitis can be severe enough to cause permanent vision loss.
If you’ve noticed a sudden change in how you perceive things at night, pay an ophthalmologist a visit ASAP. It’s possible that you’ve developed uveitis. The sooner you have your eyes treated, the higher your chances of maintaining your vision.
- There Are “Specks” Floating In Your Eyes
Also known as “floaters”, most people will see these tiny, wispy specks at some point in their lives. In many cases, these floating thread-like things are more of a bother, as they usually don’t come with pain. They also often go away on their own after several days or a few weeks.
If your floaters don’t disappear at all, however, take that as a sign to see an eye doctor right away. The same goes if they keep coming back or if they’re already disrupting your vision.
Floaters, after all, can be an indication of a serious eye injury. In such cases, the floaters are actual tiny droplets of blood. Regardless of the cause, anything that causes the eyes to bleed can lead to vision loss.
- You Have Eye Discharge Not Only At Night
Some amount of eye discharge, also known as sleep discharge, is normal upon waking. That’s because it helps protect the front surface of the eyes from harmful debris.
If you notice a lot of this dry and crusty (or wet and sticky) substance, however, you may have an eye infection. This is especially true if the discharge occurs not only at night but throughout the day. An infection may also cause some eye pain, sensitivity to light, or blurry vision.
These symptoms all warrant a trip to the ophthalmologist. You may need prescription antibiotics to clear the infection up.
Maintain Clear Vision With the Help of an Ophthalmologist
There you have it, all the top answers to your question, “when should I see an ophthalmologist?” Now that you know, it’s best to book an appointment with one as soon as possible. The sooner you do, the sooner you can confirm that your eyes are in tip-top condition.
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