In an effort to demystify the eye exam process, we will explain our standard procedures as part of a series.
This week we will talk about your medical history.
“How is my medical history relevant to my eye exam?”
Well, first and foremost, we are a healthcare provider and we are committed to your overall health. It has been said that eyes are the windows to your body. Unbeknownst to many, the eyes are affected by medications and diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension. Interestingly, an eye exam sometimes leads to the first diagnoses of a systemic disease. Family medical history is important to determine if you are at a higher risk for diseases such as glaucoma and macular degeneration.
- We will ask about your history of any systemic problems or diseases. Why? Diabetics are at a higher risk of eye complications and blindness. High blood pressure can cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina, the area in which images are focused. These are just a few examples. Our doctors evaluate all your eye structures during an eye exam, but knowing your medical history will help the doctors establish a record of your eye health and will monitor changes in future visits. Primary care physicians often request a summary of the eye exam results to supplement your medical record.
- We will ask about all of your active medications. Why? There are many drugs that can cause damage to the eye. While it is very possible that many people will not experience any of the side effects from these drugs, it is important for our doctors to monitor your eye health while you are on these drugs. Plaquenil, a drug commonly prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, can cause irreversible damage to the retina. Steroids, such as Prednisone, are the most damaging to the eye of all prescription drugs. Steroids can cause cataracts and increased intraocular pressure, which can lead to glaucoma.
- We will ask about your medication and other allergies. Why? Many people experience eye discomfort due to seasonal allergies. Symptoms may include dry, red, and itchy eyes. These symptoms may be aggravated by contact lens use. Our doctors will be able to formulate a treatment plan to help alleviate any discomfort. Knowledge of medication allergies is an important part of your medical history in general. It is also important for our doctors to know your allergies when when prescribing or using eye drops and contact lens solutions.
- We will ask about your family history and social history. Why? Your family medical history is used to determine patterns of disorders among your relatives and will help in determining your increased risk of these disorders. Our doctors can use this knowledge to help you take steps in reducing your risk of disorders such as cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma. Any changes to your eye health will be closely monitored in future visits. Social history includes questions such as “Are you a cigarette smoker?” Cigarette smoking is a contributor to macular degeneration and cataracts.
That concludes our segment on medical history. Please feel free to ask any questions regarding this topic. Stay tuned for our next installment in this series.