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March is Save Your Vision Month: Expanding technology aids in detection, prevention

March 8, 2012

Many eye and vision problems have no obvious signs or symptoms, making a yearly comprehensive eye and vision exam the optimal way to maintain a lifetime of healthy vision and eyes. Today’s doctors of optometry use the latest technologies to diagnose and treat patients. As part of March’s Save Your Vision Month, the AOA underscores how the different high-tech tests and procedures performed by an optometrist during an eye exam can benefit the patient.

“With the advanced technologies available to optometrists today, patients can expect a less invasive and highly accurate diagnostic experience during their eye exam,” said S. Barry Eiden, O.D., AOA spokesperson. “As a result, eye care is more innovative and effective than ever before.”

Typically, patients associate a visit to the eye doctor with the Snellen eye chart test. While this traditional procedure to measure visual acuity, along with pupil dilation continue to be used as a standard of care, new advances in eye care technology are becoming more prevalent in optometrists’ offices. Corneal topography, retinal imaging, and tear film analyses are just a few examples of the new high-tech tools optometrists are incorporating into their practices.

The cornea is the most significant structure the eye uses for refractive power. To detect corneal irregularities due to disease, trauma or other factors that can result in distortion of vision, a new device called corneal topography is used. These systems evaluate the shape and regularity of the front surface of the eye. Not only are these devices faster and more compact than ever before, but they are also more robust and more affordable, making them available for routine patients and not just those with corneal issues. In addition to being used as a diagnostic tool, topography is often used for those patients wearing contact lenses to both assist in the initial fitting of contacts and for the detection of potential contact lens complications.

To give an optometrist a view of the retina, several types of retinal imaging systems are used. These progressive technologies provide wide-angle views of the retina to help detect macular degeneration, glaucoma, retinal holes or detachments as well as systemic diseases such as diabetes, stroke and high blood pressure. These high-tech tools may be used in addition to pupil dilation, which gives the doctor more area of the eye to assess at one time.

Dry eye is one of the most common eye conditions, characterized by insufficient tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. New advances in tear film analysis technologies, including computerized analysis of the tear lipid layer, allow optometrists to detect the cause of dry eye and identify the best course of treatment for a patient.

The AOA’s guidelines for receiving comprehensive eye exams begin early in life. The AOA urges parents to bring infants six to 12 months of age to their local optometrist for a an assessment and then again for an exam at age three and age five before entering kindergarten. Children and adults should receive yearly comprehensive eye exams, unless otherwise advised by an optometrist.

To find a nearby doctor of optometry, or for additional information on eye health, please visit www.aoa.org.

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