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It is extremely important to treat your eyes with care throughout your life. Ignoring changes in vision or skipping eye examinations puts arguably our most precious faculty at risk.
It is highly recommended that adults see an ophthalmologist as soon as possible if you experience any of the following symptoms:
• Changes in vision: examples include double vision, halos around lights, wavy lines, blurry faces, watery vision, sudden spots, lightning streaks or jagged lines of light, sudden spots, flashes of light.
• Changes in your field of vision: such as shadows, blurriness or black spots in central or peripheral vision and curtain-like loss of vision.
• Changes in colour vision
• Loss of vision or a decrease in vision in one or both eyes.
• Physical changes to the eye: Crossed eyes, eyes that turn out, in, down or up, pain, signs of infection (swelling, redness, discharge ).

What is Ophthalmology?

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Ophthalmology is the branch of medicine that deals with the anatomy, physiology and diseases of the eye.
All evaluations that purport to diagnose eye disease should be carried out by a physician. An ophthalmologist is a doctor of medicine who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the eye, in addition to diagnosing systemic disease that manifest in eye signs or symptoms.
Since ophthalmologists perform operations on eyes, they are considered to be both surgical and medical specialists.
In fact, the only health professional trained both medically and surgically to treat eye disorders — especially the most serious eye diseases such as macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma — is an ophthalmologist.
Ophthalmologists offer a comprehensive approach to ocular symptoms and disease. As well as diagnosing and treating ocular disease either by medical or surgical means, ophthalmologists offer comprehensive ocular-visual assessment, which may include the prescription of corrective lenses.
Extensive surgical experience is incorporated into the last 24 months of training to become an ophthalmologist. Many ophthalmologists continue their training for a further 12-24 months in a variety of sub-specialties.
Historically, the practice of ophthalmology has encompassed all aspects of visual function in health and disease, including refraction, orthoptics, binocular vision and strabismus. Medical and surgical treatment of disease involving the visual system and awareness of ocular manifestations of systemic disease are also an integral part of the practice of ophthalmology.

What is an ophthalmologist?

Ophthalmologists are highly-trained eye physicians and surgeons, the designated medical leaders in the eye care team.
They are licensed medical specialists in eye and vision care, surgery and medical interventions, and the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of serious eye disease.
Ophthalmologists perform comprehensive eye exams, conduct surgery, prescribe and administer medication, and determine the ideal prescription for corrective lenses.
Ophthalmologists are physicians who, upon graduation from medical school, undertake several years of post-graduate training in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the eye.
Seeing an ophthalmologist for early treatment or preventive eye care is the best way to reduce the risk of permanent eye damage and vision loss. Your ophthalmologist will guide you through many decisions about protecting your vision or treating an eye condition

How often should you have your eyes examined?

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It is important to periodically have your eyes examined throughout your life. Telling your ophthalmologist about any history of eye disease in your family is also crucial.
An eye exam at 6 months old will help in the early detection of vision problems that can be contributing factors in developmental delays, educational setbacks and behavioural problems in children experiencing difficulty seeing properly.
It is recommended that healthy adults who have not noticed anything wrong with their eyes or vision, should see an eye doctor according to the following schedule:
• Age 19 – 40: at least every 10 years
• Age 41 – 55: at least every 5 years
• Age 56 – 65: at least every 3 years
• Over 65: at least every 2 years
Are there some people who are at a higher risk of eye problems and need to see an ophthalmologist in South Africa more frequently?
Yes. South Africans at a much higher risk include:
• People with diabetes, thyroid disease, rheumatological diseases such as lupus.
• People of African or Hispanic descent
• Anyone with a tendency toward high intraocular pressure
• Anyone with a family history of glaucoma, cataract, macular degeneration, or retinal detachment
• Anyone with a previous eye injury
• People taking certain medications (Plaquanil, Prednisone, Ethambutol are just a few of the medications that can affect the eyes — always ask your prescribing physician if vision can be affected by the medication you take)
• People already experiencing poor eyesight from any other causes such as cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, etc.

These South Africans should follow the recommended schedule:
• Over 40 years old: at least every 3 years
• Over 50 years old: at least every 2 years
• Over 60 years old: at least once a year

What’s the difference between a diagnostic eye exam and an exam for the purposes of refraction?

• A diagnostic eye examination requires knowledge and experience provided by a medical doctor with specialty certification in ophthalmology
• A refractive examination involves the taking of measurements for visual acuity and the prescribing of correction. This examination does not require a medical doctor.
• The use of supporting vision team personnel to perform certain non-medical procedures or tests is appropriate as a means of increasing the availability of ophthalmologists to provide medical services, and to provide comprehensive and efficient eye care to the greatest number of people.
• Supporting personnel on the vision team work with and are supervised by ophthalmologists at all times. The ophthalmologist is responsible for the delivery of comprehensive eye care, which includes primary, secondary or tertiary care.

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