Check your 20/20 in 2020

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How is your 20/20 in 2020?

Having the calendar roll over into 2020 is a good reminder for people to get an eye exam and to keep on top of their eye health.

According to Dr. Paul Beckwith of Sealy Eye Center, many people take their eyes for granted until there is a problem.

“Vision is one of the top senses we have,” he said. “People think eye exams, eye glasses, as a doctor I think eye exams, eye health. Let’s say the eye is healthy and we all age, that’s not fun and we get gray hair and aging eyes and we see everything from cataracts to retinal disease to macular degeneration – all of those things. Even if those people have aging problems they may or may not need eyeglasses as a result of that.”

Beckwith said when it comes to vision and eye care, not everything is as it seems.

“So, cataracts are an aging thing. We’re all aging, there’s a huge aging population now. Baby boomers are getting older now and I’m one of them,” he said. “So, you experience all of that. That eye care industry is a huge industry because you’ve got eye exams, eye problems, and vision difficulties, and people that need glasses and people that don’t need eyeglasses but then they have eye problems.

“Then you start getting into the prescription glasses and people that do need eyeglasses and you write a prescription, and they’re almost like a recipe – optics are challenging, you get these eyeglasses and they don’t work because the prescription is off and so doctors, it takes an art to do that. You can get a great doc but not a very good optician, somebody that makes your glasses. There’s a lot of difference in optics,” he said.

What is 20/20 vision?

According to the American Optometric Association, “20/20 vision is a term used to express normal visual acuity (the clarity or sharpness of vision) measured at a distance of 20 feet. If you have 20/20 vision, you can see clearly at 20 feet what should normally be seen at that distance. If you have 20/100 vision, it means that you must be as close as 20 feet to see what a person with normal vision can see at 100 feet.”

The association notes that 20/20 vision does not necessarily mean perfect vision.

“20/20 vision only indicates the sharpness or clarity of vision at a distance. Other important vision skills, including peripheral awareness or side vision, eye coordination, depth perception, focusing ability and color vision, contribute to your overall visual ability,” it says on their website. “Some people can see well at a distance but are unable to bring nearer objects into focus. This condition can be caused by hyperopia (farsightedness) or presbyopia (loss of focusing ability). Others can see items that are close but cannot see those far away. This condition may be caused by myopia (nearsightedness),” the AOA says.

The most common chart used to test vision is called the Snellen eye chart. On that chart, the large “E” on top corresponds to 20/200 vision. If that is the smallest letter you can discern with corrective lenses, then you are legally blind.

Aging and eyes

Dr. Beckwith noted that there are many types of health issues with eyes, but that eventually everyone succumbs to something as they grow older.

“You get an eye that comes in and it looks like this (pointing to a picture), you’ve got a very small cataract … the vision’s a little off, but that could be a congenital cataract, people were born with it, they were on oxygen as a newbie, things like that, so you get all kinds of eye problems. You get an aging eye, you get systemic problems, there’s all kinds of reasons to get an eye exam. So, I’m big on eye exams for eye health and then you get into all of the things that are related to it,” he said.

He said being an eye doctor is very challenging.

“Every patient is like a Forrest Gump movie; you never know what you’re going to get. You get a 12-year old, think it’s headaches and they don’t want to go to school, we have patients like that and they come in with a brain tumor. That’s an interesting type of patient. You never know what you see with patients,” he said.

In addition to glasses and contact lenses, there are various surgeries that can be performed for different ailments of the eyes. The one thing Beckwith said doctors can’t fix is vanity.

“So then you get into the optical business and the prescriptions. There’s all types of frames. There’s frames for $29, there’s frames for $1,400. They’re like jewelry,” he said. “You get into protecting the eyes in sun for fishing that type prescription and then you get into all types of eyeglasses. You get into specialty glasses, you get into all of this stuff, so when we write these prescriptions, we say ‘good luck, I hope you see.’ And it’s a challenge. Some people want very special glasses.”

Will glasses affect my eyes?

Beckwith said people should not believe the old wives’ tale of glasses weakening the eyes.

“The only thing eyeglasses do, the only thing they do, is help you to see better. If you’ve got great vision, you don’t need them. If you’ve got not-so-great vision, you probably need them.

At some point you start needing glasses, and that’s the focus of the eye. You can have very healthy eyes but horrible focus,” he said.

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