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Eye Care Articles

Your Eye Doctor & You

Bothered by headaches? Hay fever? High blood pressure? Your vitamin intake? Your golf score? Talk to your eye doctor.

When a young, healthy patient came in for his annual eye exam, Dr. Julia Edwards noted the yellowish cast of his eyes. The patient had noticed it too and expressed his concern. An eye exam, however, revealed no evidence of visual problems. "We started talking," says Dr. Edwards, a VSP optometrist in DeForest, Wisconsin, "and he revealed he was a health food enthusiast." After a few pointed questions, Dr. Edwards discovered the reason for the young man's yellow eyes: he was drinking several glasses of carrot juice a day. The treatment? Cut back on the juice.

Like many people, this young man didn't realize the connection between his lifestyle and his eye health. But it's a connection that can help you make a good eye exam better. "The more we know about a patient," says Dr. Edwards, "the better we can prescribe the right glasses or anticipate and treat visual problems."

So how do you know what to tell or ask your eye doctor? Consider these tips for making the most of your next eye exam.

If there is some part of your eye exam, diagnosis, or treatment that you don't understand, talk to your doctor about it. "Ask about the consequences of your condition," advises Dr. Edwards. "For example, how it will affect your vision and what kinds of tests you will need." Ask about your treatment as well -- the benefits or side effects, and whether you will have any restrictions in diet, exercise, or medications. Dr. Edwards also suggests taking notes and requesting written instructions from your doctor. "And ask for information that explains about your condition, so you can read them at home," she says. "Then if something's still unclear, call the doctor with more questions."

Take charge of your eye health. A good eye exam is a dual responsibility -- the doctor's and yours.

So how do you know what to tell or ask your eye doctor? Consider these tips for making the most of your next eye exam.

Health Record

"Be prepared to give your eye doctor a thorough health background," says Dr. Edwards. Bring a complete list of your medications -- both prescription and non-prescription -- including antihistamines, decongestants, asthma inhalers, and nutritional supplements. "People typically overlook over-the-counter products," she says, "even though they often have an effect on the eyes."

Also report any current difficulties you are having with your vision: blurring, dry eyes, double vision, difficulty seeing at night, eye strain. And tell your doctor about chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and allergies, as well as any surgery you've had since your last exam.

Be prepared to discuss your family health history, too. "For most eye diseases, there's a hereditary component," notes Dr. Edwards. Glaucoma, macular degeneration, and early cataracts, for example, tend to run in families.

Lifestyle Checklist

How you use your eyes helps the doctor decide what corrective eyewear is best for you. Let the doctor know about your work environment. Do you use a computer? How many hours a day? Is the lighting in your office natural or artificial? Do you do a lot of close up work -- bookkeeping, editing, electronics? Do you work outdoors or in hazardous surroundings?

Discuss your leisure activities as well. Do you play racquetball, tennis, or golf? Are you a fisherman or boater? An avid reader or quilter? The right eyewear can protect your eyes, enhance your skills, and improve your vision.