Friday, March 14, 2014

Seeing to things

I went for an eye exam today. Nothing particularly unusual about that, but how it came to be is a little. And the results indicate a future path—too.

I needed an eye exam: My last exam was in August 2008, and I wrote about it at the time because it was the final follow-up after my Lasik eye surgery. I didn’t intend to wait so long until my next exam—it’s not a good idea for someone over 50 to go so long without an eye exam. But, after that age, years start going by so quickly that it’s easy to lose track of time.

My specific motivation was that my driver licence is about to expire. We have ten year licences in New Zealand, and they expire on a person’s “five” birthdays (well, actually, we have until three months after, and mine is up the end of next week). However, when I looked at the application I suddenly remembered that my current license says I need to wear vision correction to drive. Oops. It never occurred to me to change that.

So, faced with the need for a new license that needed to be corrected, I decided to go ahead and get a professional test to sort of pre-emptively take care of the situation. That meant, however, finding an optometrist.

I wanted to go with an independent optometrist, not the local outlet of a national (or international…) chain. I’m sure that the chains offer fine service, but the optometrists may change and I’d prefer to stick with the same person for a while. Plus, I like to patronise local businesses whenever I can; chain stores are sometimes franchises, sometimes owned by the chain, and without asking it’s hard to know which is which.

So, I turned to Google. In the end, I only considered places that had a website. If a practice couldn’t have their own website, then I felt they weren’t necessarily up with the times. Their service may be as good, their technology as up to date, but a business that uses modern technology to reach customers is, in my opinion, a bit more switched on.

This is why I chose Birkenhead Optometrists, and it turned out to be a good choice. I had a thorough eye exam that I’d rate among the best I’ve ever had—and since I’ve been having eye exams since I was a kid, I have ample experiences to compare.

However, I also learned that because before my surgery I’d had such bad myopia, I’m at greater risk of cataracts. Where normal-sighted people might develop cataracts in their 70s, I’m more likely to do so in my 60s. In fact, I have early signs of cataracts now—nothing to worry about yet, but something to keep an eye on (heh!) over the coming years. An indicator of how NOT bad it is, my next exam is in two years.

Other than that, my vision was good and so was my eye health (including eye pressure). Now, certificate in hand, I can go and renew my license next week.

So, I was overdue for an eye exam (bad boy!), and I needed to renew my driver license, so I had a good motivator. Then, the Internet helped me make my choice of who should do the exam. Now, I’m ready to go renew my license and I am aware of future health issues that will eventually develop.

All in all, a pretty good day—as far as I can see.


coreplane said...

Better to see an opthalmologist than than an optometrist (esp. after 50). An optometrist is good for prescribing glasses & acting as an early warning (e.g. they'll catch many things) but for more subtle stuff you really need an actual specialized MD.

I've also been myopic almost all my life & have had cataract surgery. It's no big deal & it works really well. I like that you can pick what your vision will be like afterward (they can build correction into your new synthetic lenses.) I've no idea how/if that might interact with Lasik surgery, though.

Good luck, in any case.

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

I don't think it's necessarily easy to see an ophthalmologist for routine vision assessment in New Zealand. Ordinarily, a patient would be referred to one by an optometrist or a GP because ophthalmologists perform eye surgery or use other advanced medical treatment. I'm pretty sure that the vast majority of routine eye exams in New Zealand are done by rgistered optometrists who provide assessment and monitoring and who write prescriptions for glasses and contact lenses. GPs also do some basic visions testing.

We also have dispensing opticians, but all they can do is fill prescriptions written by an optometrist, though they can measure for glasses, too, that sort of thing.

My Lasik surgery was done by an opthamologist, and I could go directly to him because it was an elective procedure. Ironically, when the day comes that I need cataract surgery (assuming I will…) I'll most likely be referred back to the same ophthalmologist for the surgery, which is good, since they also do Lasik.

I don't know how having had Lasik will affect my vision if I have to have cataract surgery. I gather, though, it won't be as good, though I may have misunderstood.