You should have your eyes checked at least every two years, but ideally on a yearly basis. So says Fikile Makhoba, an optometrist and owner of Fikile Makhoba Optometrists, which operates in the Johannesburg CBD. “There are many diseases, such as glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy, that don’t have symptoms in the early stages. Such diseases can lead to permanent visual loss in the long run,” Makhoba says, emphasising that an eye examination is not just about getting spectacles, but also about checking the health of your eyes.
Routine eye exams are important, regardless of your age or physical health, adds Shruti Desai, an optometrist and owner of TheEyeMakers Optometrist & Eyewear Boutique.
Desai lists examples of the conditions that your optometrist will be looking for:
- Refractive error: This refers to near-sightedness, far-sightedness and astigmatism.
- Amblyopia: This occurs when the eyes are misaligned or when one eye has a much higher degree of refractive error than the other.
- Chronic systemic diseases: Optometrists are often the first healthcare professionals to detect high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
- Age-related conditions: As you age, your chances of developing an age-related eye problem increase. For example, cataracts affect at least half the population aged 65 and older. Detecting and treating age-related eye problems early can help to maintain quality of life and reduce the risk of permanent vision loss.
- Strabismus: This relates to crossed or turned eyes. Strabismus causes problems with depth perception and can lead to amblyopia.
- Eye-teaming problems: Even if your eyes appear to be properly aligned, it’s possible that they do not work together efficiently as a team. Binocular vision can cause problems such as headaches and eye strain, and affect reading and other near-vision tasks.
- Focusing problems: These problems can range from incompletely developed focusing skills in children to normal age-related issues.
Signs that you should get an eye test
- Blurred vision;
- Difficulty when using a computer;
- Eye strain or fatigue, especially when reading;
- Difficulty seeing at night;
- Frequent headaches and double vision;
- Burning, itchy, painful, tired, teary/watery eyes; and
- Vision loss.
Choosing a pair of spectacles
“The frame that you wear can say a lot about your personality. I always believe that if you choose the right frame, chances are you will definitely wear your glasses,” says Makhoba.
“The general rule is that the shape of your sunglasses or eyeglasses should be the opposite of your face shape,” notes Desai.
The main aim of sunglasses is to protect your eyes from excessive UV radiation. “You need to choose the lens colour with care, after choosing the shape. This can affect how well you detect contrast and differentiate colours,” adds Makhoba. “This is particularly important when driving, to distinguish the traffic light colours.”