Definition and Overview
A general eye consultation is an appointment set by a patient with an eye specialist. Depending on the eye problem or symptoms, a patient may see an ophthalmologist, optometrist, or optician.
Ophthalmologists are considered eye doctors. They have the most intensive education and training among the three including residency. They are trained to conduct comprehensive eye exams, diagnose, treat, and manage eye conditions (such as diabetic retinopathy), prescribe medications, and unlike optometrists and opticians, they can also perform surgical procedures such as cataract surgery.
Meanwhile, an optometrist and optician often deal with vision-related problems, which include refractive errors or the inability to see near or far clearly, as well as astigmatism. The optometrist is responsible for diagnosing the eye problem while the optician helps the patient select the right glasses or contact lenses.
These eye specialists often work together. For example, a person with astigmatism may approach an optometrist and then an optician for corrective glasses and contact lenses. However, if the problem becomes severe, surgery may become an option, which can be performed by an ophthalmologist with adequate training and experience as a surgeon.
A similar scenario occurs with patients diagnosed with keratoconus, a degenerative eye disease characterized by the abnormal thinning of the cornea that it becomes conical in shape. During the early stages of the disease, special eyeglasses and contact lenses can be prescribed, but as the condition becomes more severe, a corneal transplant carried out by an eye doctor is often recommended.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
A general eye consultation is carried out:
As a person is getting older – Like many organs in the body, the eyes can also undergo many changes as the person gets older. Disorders such as presbyopia and macular degeneration (or the damage to the macula that leads to loss of vision) occur during old age. In fact, macular degeneration, or MD, is the leading cause of blindness or vision loss for men and women who are at least 65 years old.
If a person is predisposed to possible eye problems – Some eye conditions are hereditary. These include cataracts and retinal degeneration that can start during infancy. In some cases, they don’t manifest until the person is older. A good example is glaucoma, which causes irreparable damage to the nerves of the eyes as the pressure of fluid builds up. Since the nerves are damaged, the person experiences a permanent decrease of vision. This is often hereditary, but the symptoms don’t appear unless the person starts having vision problems. Further, it may take ten years before the symptoms manifest. As such, only regular eye consultations can identify or monitor its development. Certain preexisting diseases can also increase the risk of developing eye problems. These include diabetes, which can lead to diabetic retinopathy or nerve damage to the eyes.
As part of a regular physical exam – Some companies may require their employees to undergo general eye consultation, especially if their job requires close attention to details.
When symptoms appear – Vision changes such as the appearance of floaters, blurry vision, double vision, or the reduced ability to focus on an object can indicate problems affecting the eyes whether the actual cause is in the eye itself or another underlying condition. When these happen, the person may approach an eye specialist for a consultation.
In cases of eye injuries – Some injuries can affect the eyes causing bleeding or loss of vision, which can be either permanent or temporary.
The eyes play a huge role in a person’s overall health and well-being. Without them, activities can be severely limited. A general eye consultation will ensure that problems are addressed before they worsen, appropriate treatment is applied, and the health of the eyes is maintained, particularly as the person ages.
How Does the Procedure Work?
The patient sets up an appointment with an eye clinic or hospital. A staff would provide the patient with the most ideal schedule unless he needs urgent care. During the actual consultation, the doctor will:
Review the patient’s medical record
Conduct an interview to determine the symptoms felt by the patient, other conditions that may affect or causing vision problems, and family history of eye disease
Carry out a complete physical exam to obtain weight, height, blood pressure, and glucose levels
Conduct various eye tests – The list of eye examinations to be conducted can significantly vary depending on the symptoms of the patient. However, in the majority of cases, the eye doctor will assess visual acuity, check eye pressure with the use of drops, and pass different degrees of light into the eyes.
The results will then be discussed by the doctor with the patient. If previous tests are inconclusive, more tests will be carried out. Otherwise, the doctor will make a diagnosis and create a treatment plan, which may include the use of medications such as eye drops, corrective glasses and lenses, and surgery. In some cases, the doctor may implement a wait-and-see approach wherein the condition is monitored for a specific timeframe.
A general eye consultation may also refer to a follow-up. In the case of glaucoma, for example, the patient may have to see an ophthalmologist on a regular basis (like every week) to manage the condition and prevent serious complications from arising (such as permanent loss of vision).
A general eye consultation can take around 45 minutes to an hour to complete. It doesn’t require any special preparation like a diet. However, if drops are used, patients are recommended to take somebody with them to drive them home, as the drops can reduce vision for a while.
Possible Risks and Complications
The consultations themselves do not pose any risk or complication. In fact, they are highly recommended to carefully monitor any potential disease or problem that can affect vision. However, because some of the eye issues progress over time, the patient may find it frustrating to visit their eye doctor regularly or adjust their treatment plan. Further, because of regular consultations, it may be costly for some patients who are uninsured.
- American Academy of Ophthalmology