The science behind vision care for both the diagnosis
and treatment of eye diseases has become increasingly
sophisticated, making a visit to the eye doctor easier
and faster than in the past. That’s good news, as
computers, tablets, smartphones and other electronic
devices with visual displays cause many of us to seek
relief from tired eyes, digital eye strain and what’s
come to be known as computer vision syndrome.
According to a 2015 survey by The Vision
Council, 65 percent of American adults reported having
symptoms of digital eye strain. “We see a lot of people
with eye strain. They’re on the computer 10 hours a day,
most days,” says Dr. Brian McGinley, an optometrist and
the owner of Optix on Downer. “People need to remember
to take breaks every 20 minutes and refocus on something
farther away.” He’s referring to the 20/20/20 rule,
which suggests that every 20 minutes a computer user
should take a break for at least 20 seconds and look at
objects that are 20 feet away.
Perhaps you’ve been putting off an eye
exam because you hate taking the time for the dilated
eye exam. Nobody can honestly say they enjoy those
annoying eyedrops and the time you must wait for the
drops to take effect — not to mention needing an escort
because you will have difficulty driving after the test.
Truth is, however, dilation of the eyes is the most
important part of a comprehensive eye exam. By dilating
the eyes, a doctor can get a much better view of the
retina, optic nerve and vessels in the back of the eye.
Fortunately, technology has been
developed that may allow you to have a comprehensive
retinal exam without the use of dilating drops. Optomap,
a retinal imaging product, gives doctors a view of the
retina without the drops. The test is noninvasive and
takes only seconds to complete. The image can be viewed
on a computer monitor and stored for future comparisons.
“This technology is not necessarily a replacement for
the dilated eye exam, but it does give the doctor a good
view of the back of the eye,” says Dr. Logan Kiekhafer,
an optometrist with Wisconsin Vision. Both Wisconsin
Vision and Optix on Downer offer the Optomap.
For those who can’t help blinking from
the “puff of air” test for glaucoma, there’s an
alternative to that too. “The tonometer gently touches
your eye to flatten the cornea and test for intraocular
pressure,” Kiekhafer says.
Advancements in Clinical Treatment
Certain eye diseases, such as macular
degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinal disease, are
commonly treated by physicians known as
ophthalmologists, but your optometrist can screen for
them. “We are the first line of triage for our patients.
If we see something that needs further evaluation, we
refer patients to a physician,” McGinley says.
Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions
that damage the optic nerve, which is vital to good
vision. This damage is often caused by an abnormally
high pressure in your eye. New advances aim to make
glaucoma treatment easier and more effective. Now there
is minimally invasive
or micro-invasive glaucoma surgery. These
procedures involve implanting a tiny device to allow
fluid to drain from the eye, reducing internal pressure.
Macular degeneration, the leading cause
of blindness in the U.S., is the result of abnormal
growth and leakage of blood vessels in the retina. Many
people develop this disease as they age. Macular
degeneration has two forms: dry and wet. “Right now,
there is only FDA-approved treatment for the wet form,”
according to Dr. Nicholas H. Tosi, an ophthalmologist
with Retina and Vitreous Consultants of Wisconsin Ltd.
“Prior to 2006, there were not many good treatment
options. Now there are three drugs — Lucentis, Avastin
and Eylea— that can be injected into the eye over a
period of time to stop new blood vessels from forming
and block the leaking from the abnormal vessels that
cause wet macular degeneration.”
The newly approved drug Eylea offers the
effectiveness of the other drugs, but with less frequent
injections and no monitoring requirements. This could
reduce the number of office visits for patients.
Diabetic Retinal Disease
Diabetic eye disease comprises a group of
eye conditions that affect people with diabetes. “There
are two main ways diabetes can damage vision. These
conditions include diabetic retinopathy and diabetic
macular edema,” Tosi explains. “Diabetic retinopathy
involves changes to retinal blood vessels that can cause
them to bleed or leak fluid, distorting vision. With
macular edema, there is swelling within the eye.”
Many good options exist for treatment of
diabetic eye disease, Tosi says. “We can use injections
with the same drugs that are used for macular
degeneration. Or there are laser treatments to stabilize
the disease process,” he says. The National Eye
Institute reports that recent studies have shown that
injections are not only effective for treating
diabetic macular edema, but also
effective for slowing progression of diabetic
retinopathy, so the injections are increasingly used as
a first-line treatment.
“Modern techniques continue to evolve and
have gotten better and better,” Tosi adds.