South Africa observes eye care awareness month from the 23rd September to the 17 October each year. During this time healthcare advocates make an effort to raise awareness and educate the public about the importance of eye care and eye health as it is estimated that up to 75% of blindness could be prevented through proper care and treatment. Bloom Financial Services, along with our health insurance partner, Momentum Health4Me, discuss the importance of eye care and how an eye specialist, called an ophthalmologist can help with eye conditions and diseases.
Why should you take care of your eyes?
Glaucoma, which is the condition that leads to permanent blindness, is usually not noticeable until the affected person has suffered serious and irreparable vision loss as a result of the disease. Early detection and medical treatment are the best way to deal with this condition and, because there are no early warning signs to alert you to the condition, it is recommended that you have a routine eye check-up each year.
In addition to glaucoma, an annual eye exam will also alert medical professionals to other serious conditions, like high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer. This is because an eye test will examine the condition of the blood vessels in your retina, which is an indication of the health of your body’s blood vessels and so can alert the eye care practitioner or doctor to other serious medical problems or conditions.
Eye specialist focus: Ophthalmologist
There are two types of eye specialists that you should be aware of: optometrists and ophthalmologists. An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor whose focus is to diagnose and treat diseases or conditions related to the eye. An optometrist, in comparison, is primarily concerned with basic eye care and health. They focus on vision quality and will conduct various tests to make a diagnosis related to your vision.
Role of an eye specialist: what they do
Some of the services you can expect to receive from an ophthalmologist include:
- Conducting eye tests or screenings to check for conditions, like glaucoma
- Providing surgical eye procedures, like cataract removal or lens repair
Some of the services you can expect to receive from an optometrist include:
- Conducting a vision quality test to check for conditions like near-sightedness or far-sightedness
- Detecting certain eye diseases or conditions for referral to an ophthalmologist
- Prescribing vision aids, like reading glasses or contact lenses.
You should have an annual eye check-up with an optometrist each year. Find out when you should visit the optometrist as well as the health insurance benefits for optometry with the Health4Me health insurance plans.
Symptoms of an eye condition
Prevention is better than cure, which is why taking care of your eyes is so important. Avoid permanent damage, or even blindness, by observing good eyecare methods and practices. We recommend visiting a specialist if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Loss of vision (sudden or gradual)
- Altered or irregular eye movements
- Persistent pain in your eye
- Visual field loss
- Bulging eye(s)
Diagnosis: what to expect during an ophthalmologist eye exam
This type of exam differs from an optometrist’s eye exam. The ophthalmologist will take note of your eye history as well as your family medical history. They will then conduct a refraction test to evaluate your vision. This is done by looking through a device at an eye chart with different lenses. This will determine if you are experiencing any vision difficulties. Depending on the results, the ophthalmologist may prescribe some of these tests:
- Full examination of your pupils to check your eye response
- Full examination of your retina to check the health of your blood vessels and optic nerve
- Slit lamp test, used to check the health and functioning of your eyelids, cornea, conjunctiva and irises
- Colour blindness test
- Glaucoma test
Glaucoma: testing, diagnosis and treatment
A glaucoma test is recommended every two to four years for anyone over the age of 40 and earlier if you have a family history of glaucoma. This is the eye test that is required to screen for the risk of blindness and typically kicks-off by measuring the intraocular pressure (IOP) inside your eyes. This test is conducted using the non-contact tonometry (NCT) or ‘puff-of-air’ test. You will rest your chin on the machine’s chin rest and look directly into the light inside the machine. The specialist will then release a puff of air into your eye. The intraocular pressure of your eye can be calculated by your eye’s resistance to the air puff. The ophthalmologist may also choose to conduct another glaucoma test using an instrument called an applanation tonometer. The specialist will administer eye drops into your eye to numb it and you will star into a slit lamp while he or she gently touches the surface of your eye with the tonometer
If you’ve been diagnosed with glaucoma your ophthalmologist could treat you by prescribing eye drops, oral medications or by conducting a surgical procedure, like laser surgery or microsurgery which will lower the pressure in your eye.
How much is an eye specialist consultation fee?
Gold health insurance plan members can visit a specialist, like an ophthalmologist, twice a year at a limit of R1,000 per consultation. The specialist must belong to the Momentum CareCross Network. Find out more about the specialist benefit with Bloom.
How much is a typical eye exam without health insurance?
All Health4Me members are entitled to a basic eye care test every two years provided that it’s a Momentum CareCross Network optometrist, which forms part of the optometry benefit. This type of eye check-up would ordinarily cost you between R90-R200 without medical insurance.
How do I get a referral to see an ophthalmologist?
You will need a GP or optometrist referral in order to book a specialist visit appointment with an ophthalmologist. If you would like some assistance in locating a Momentum CareCross Network ophthalmologist, you can contact our offices at 0860 10 29 03 or email: email@example.com
You can’t prevent glaucoma but you can lower your risk for developing the condition and you can take corrective steps to prevent the onset of blindness. At Bloom we encourage our members to lead a healthy lifestyle. That means getting regular medical check-ups, screenings and exams to promote wellness. Make sure you’ve covered for these medical procedures by getting health insurance cover. Contact our team of consultants to discuss Health4Me health insurance options.
Medical Content Disclaimer
You understand and acknowledge that all users of the Bloom Financial Services website are responsible for their own medical care, treatment, and oversight. All content provided on the website, is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Neither is it intended to be a substitute for an independent professional medical opinion, judgement, diagnosis or treatment.