An interior designer and busy mother of two, Sharlene Hayek’s life took an unexpected turn when she was diagnosed with glaucoma during an impromptu eye exam.
Hayek’s two boys, Conner and Devon, are both active athletes. When Devon complained of vision problems affecting his performance, she booked eye exams for both boys. On the spur of the moment, she decided to go along and have an eye exam as well, to be a “role model” for her kids.
“I had never been to a Doctor of Optometry. I honestly thought I could always see fine and didn’t give much thought to it,” says Hayek.
It was during the exam that her Doctor of Optometry detected glaucoma, an eye disease with no obvious symptoms and that, if left untreated, can lead to blindness. Hayek had no family history of the disease or any symptoms. She was left in shock, the word “blindness” resonating during her exam consultation.
“Initially, you just sort of panic. You realize you take things for granted, from the basics of being able to live independently to watching your kids grow up,” recalls Hayek.
Hayek was fortunate, says Doctor of Optometry Kevin Woodard. With glaucoma, like many other diseases or conditions, there are usually no symptoms until the individual experiences unrecoverable vision loss.
“It’s frustrating knowing that most permanent vision loss is preventable,” says Dr. Woodard. “Telling someone they have permanent vision loss is a horrible experience. This is magnified when you know a comprehensive eye exam would have diagnosed the problem, allowing it to be treated and the vision preserved.”
Hayek had laser surgery on her eyes, which has slowed the progression of the disease significantly. Her glaucoma has left a lasting legacy: the entire family routinely gets full eye exams at intervals recommended by their Doctor of Optometry, and Hayek encourages friends to do the same. She also no longer takes her vision or eye health for granted.
“I enjoy everything more now. I joke with my friends and kids that I take little pictures in my brain of special moments: a sunset or a beautiful flower. I look at things a little bit longer now.”
5 eye health issues your Doctor of Optometry can diagnose:
In addition to glaucoma, many serious eye diseases have no symptoms, and can only be detected through a comprehensive eye exam. Even someone with 20/20 vision may be at risk.
CATARACTS: An eye condition that results in blurred vision, due to clouding of the lens over time.
MACULAR DEGENERATION: An eye disease in which the central part of the retina becomes damaged, leading to irreversible vision loss.
RETINAL DETACHMENT: A painless eye condition in which the retina detaches from its supporting layers, which can lead to vision loss.
BASAL CELL CARCINOMA: A type of skin cancer, it may appear on the sensitive skin of the eyelid.
DIABETIC RETINOPATHY: A condition caused by damage to the retina due to weakened blood vessels in the eyes; it can lead to permanent vision loss.
How often should I get an eye exam?
Regular eye exams are essential, even if your vision appears to be good. In addition to testing your vision, an eye exam looks at the health of the eye and the visual system – the part of the nervous system which allows you to see.
CHILDREN: Vision is a key component of a child’s learning and development. Children should have their first complete eye exam between six and nine months of age, another exam between the ages of two and five, and yearly exams after starting school.
ADULTS: Adults should have their eyes examined every two years. Diabetics and those over age 65, or with a history of eye disease in their family, should have annual checkups by a Doctor of Optometry.
“The only way to ensure good vision and eye health is to include a complete eye examination as a routine part of your life,” says Dr. Woodard.