Are you “blind” to the fact that your vision may not be as good as you think?

December 13, 2019

By Cheryl L. Dejewski

“Often when I tell a patient that they have a serious eye condition like glaucoma or macular degeneration, they’ll respond, ‘But, I can see fine’ or ‘I haven’t noticed anything wrong with my eyes,’” reports Mark Freedman, MD, senior partner at Eye Care Specialists, an ophthalmology practice that has overseen the care of 185,000+ area residents. He adds, “Unfortunately, whether the person is in denial, didn’t notice, or really has no symptoms, the outcome is still the same. Early diagnosis and treatment are the only ways to prevent unnecessary vision loss.”

Brett Rhode, MD, Head of Ophthalmology at Aurora Sinai Medical Center and a partner at Eye Care Specialists, explains, “What people don’t realize is that problems in one eye can be masked by the ability of the other eye to compensate. Or, changes occur so gradually that they go unnoticed. For example, with glaucoma, loss of side vision slowly occurs until it creates a ‘tunnel’ effect. And, with cataracts, many people don’t realize how much they’ve been missing until the cloudy lens is surgically removed and replaced with an implant. Then they exclaim how much brighter and more colorful everything is or how much easier it is to recognize faces or see the TV.”

Loss of vision also leads to serious issues, like an increased risk of falling, hip fractures, car accidents, nursing home placement, and depression. “Early diagnosis and prompt treatment are key to maintaining independence and quality of life. For example, when a patient’s vision has diminished with age and a new eyeglass prescription doesn’t do the trick, we often find that cataracts are the cause of the problem and, in most cases, surgical removal and replacement with a lens implant is a relatively easy and painless solution,” notes Daniel Ferguson, MD, who has performed thousands of cataract surgeries.

“Poor vision is not a fact of life and aging. It’s important to discover what’s behind the changes—whether it’s simply the need for a new glasses prescription or something more serious like the need for injection treatment to hold off diabetes-related damage. That’s why we can’t stress enough the importance of scheduling comprehensive dilated eye examinations at least every two years,” states Daniel Paskowitz, MD, PhD, an ophthalmologist with credentials from Harvard and Johns Hopkins.

Continuing education lecturer Michael Raciti, MD, explains, “When you do schedule an appointment, make sure that it is for a comprehensive exam, which means that the doctor will dilate your pupils and check your ability as far as accommodation (switching focus between near and far), pupil reflexes (adjusting from light to dark), muscle motility (looking to the sides and keeping the eyes in alignment), visual acuity (seeing objects clearly near and far), and visual field (seeing objects off to the side). They should also check the external surface (for infections and inflammations), lens (for cataracts), retina (for macular degeneration, diabetes, etc.), and internal pressure and optic nerve (for glaucoma).”

“Sight-saving diagnosis and treatment options are of no use if you are not aware, or are in denial, that you even have a problem. Start by asking yourself, ‘When was my last eye exam?’ Then, take action to enhance and protect your ability to see life to the fullest—now and in the future— by scheduling an exam today,” says medical optometrist David Scheidt, OD.

Warning Signs to Watch For

You should schedule a comprehensive dilated eye exam every two years. Call immediately, however, if you experience:

1. Loss of vision / Blind spots
2. Blurriness / Double vision
3. Pain in or around the eye
4. Seeing floaters, spots or webs
5. Lines appearing distorted or wavy
6. Difficulty seeing at night
7. Flashes of light
8. Sensitivity to light and glare
9. Continual eye redness
10. Dry eyes with itching/burning
11. Excessive tear production
12. Difficulty judging stairs or curbs
13. Holding items closer to view
14. Vision affects ability to do tasks
15. Prescription changes don’t help

FREE Booklets & Information

The doctors quoted in this article were all named “Top Doctors” by Milwaukee Magazine. They have also written a series of detailed color booklets on common eye conditions, including diabetes, cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration (AMD). Call 414- 321-7035 for free copies or for information about scheduling a comprehensive eye exam (typically covered by Medicare and insurance). Eye Care Specialists has offices on 7th & Wisconsin Ave., across from Mayfair Mall, and 102nd & National Ave. Or, visit