Total eye care

by Mary Rains

Mille Lacs Health System

Eye exams are an important part of maintaining your eye health, no matter how old you are. But how do you know if you need to have your eyes looked at by a professional?

You need an eye exam if: you have diabetes or another health condition that affects the eyes; you have trouble driving at night; it’s been longer than two years since your last exam; you experience eye strain while reading, driving or on the computer; or if you notice other vision changes.

What’s the difference between an ophthalmologist, optometrist and an optician? Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who have completed college and at least eight years of additional medical training, and are licensed to practice medicine and surgery. An optometrist is an eye doctor who has earned the Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree. Optometrists examine eyes for both vision and health problems, and prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses. Opticians are technicians trained to fit eyeglass lenses, frames, and contact lenses by using the prescriptions supplied by the other two professionals.

All children should get their eyes examined before Kindergarten, and sooner if the child appears to have a developmental delay. More than one in four middle school-age children have some form of a vision problem. Studies show that 60% of students identified as problem learners have undetected vision troubles. If you think your child has a learning or behavior problem, schedule an eye exam to rule out a vision problem first.

A health note regarding contact lens wearers: According to the Centers for Disease Control, one out of every three contact lens users sleep with their contacts in. Doing this can increase the risk of eye infections six to eight times. Contact lens-related infections can necessitate the use of hourly eye drops, cause vision loss, and lead to surgery. Students are more at risk for these infections.

Even if you have had laser vision surgery or have naturally good vision, you still need an annual exam. An eye exam can help your doctor detect problems before you realize they exist. Just by looking at your eyes, a doctor can detect early signs of serious health conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol and even cancer.

For older adults, the chances of age-related eye problems increase. Older adults are more susceptible to cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration.

If you need an eye exam, get it close to home by calling Mille Lacs Health System 320-532-3154. Ophthalmologist Dr. Adam Ahlquist is available to see patients once a month, and four optometrists visit weekly to give patients local access to eye care.