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About the Eye

The following material is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice from healthcare professionals. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you read on this website.  Our policies are further outlined in this medical disclaimer.

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What does an eye doctor do during an exam?
  • Reviews your family history of eye health.
  • Determines your visual acuity.
  • Checks your intraocular pressure.
  • Examines the response of your pupils to light.
  • Dilates your eyes and examines the posterior structures of the eye (the back of the eye, including the retina and optic nerve).
  • If indicated, performs a variety of specialized tests.
How does the eye work?

Your eye works like a camera. The white part on the outside of the eyeball is called the sclera. In its center is the cornea, the transparent part of the eye that covers the iris, or colored part of the eye. The iris operates like a camera shutter by controlling the amount of light that enters the eye.

Located behind the iris is the eye lens. It is suspended by fibers that tighten or loosen to focus the light rays from objects outside the eye onto the retina, located at the back of the eye.

The vitreous chamber, made up of clear, gelatinous fluid, is the space between the lens and the retina. The retina is like film in a camera. Within its layers are the cells that perceive light and color. The images received by the retina are conveyed to the brain by the optic nerve, allowing us to see objects.

What is the difference between an ophthalmologist and an optometrist? What is an optician?

An ophthalmologist is a medically and surgically trained physician (MD) who specializes in comprehensive eye care. Ophthalmologists can examine, diagnose and treat eye disorders. They are skilled in all facets of eye care, from prescribing eye glasses to performing intricate eye surgery. Ophthalmologists receive four years of medical school after college, a year’s internship, and a three-year training residency. Most Emory Eye Center ophthalmologists have had additional training in a subspecialty. Our retina and oculoplastic specialists have at least one year of fellowship training. Other sub-specialists, like our pediatric, glaucoma and cornea specialists, have completed at least a one-year fellowship.

Optometrists have a doctorate in optometry (OD). They’re skilled professionals who test vision and prescribe eyeglasses, contacts and other optical wear, such as low-vision devices. Most Eye Center optometrists have received additional training and specialize in treating patients with low vision or who require spectacles or contact lenses for correction.

Opticians have received additional training following college. They fill eyewear prescriptions and help fit patients into glasses and contacts.

How often should I have an eye exam?

Schedule regular eye exams with an ophthalmologist or optometrist because many eye disorders exhibit no warning symptoms, but are treatable when discovered in the early stages. Here is a general guide:

  • Before 20 years of age—as recommended by your pediatrician or eye doctor
  • Ages 20-39—at least once during this period
  • Ages 40-64—every two to four years
  • 65 or older—every one to two years
  • African Americans and Native Americans are at a greater risk for developing glaucoma, visit your eye doctor every three to five years before age 40 and every two years thereafter.
  • Diabetic patients—Have your eyes examined every year to prevent vision loss from diabetes-related eye disorders.
Will poor lighting hurt my eyes?

No. Poor lighting won’t hurt your eyes when you read or watch television. However, a good source of light will lessen the strain on your eyes.

Will carrots help me maintain good vision?

Carrots and broccoli, dark-green leafy vegetables, and sweet potatoes are good sources of vitamin A. Research conducted at the Emory Eye Center has shown that IRBP, a protein that transports vitamin A within the retina, is essential for vision. IRBP may be responsible for genetic retinal diseases and for a serious disorder in which the body’s own immune system attacks the eye.

Will my computer harm my eyes?

There is no scientific evidence that computer screens emit hazardous radiation. But you can suffer eye strain or fatigue from extended computer use, poor lighting or a variety of other related factors.

What do I do if I injure my eye?

The following are some general guidelines for treating eye injuries properly; however; if you receive an eye injury, seek immediate medical attention from an ophthalmologist or primary care physician to reduce the risk of permanent damage.

For cuts:

  • Bandage the eye gently.
  • Be careful not to rub or apply too much pressure on the eye.
  • Don’t wash out the eye or remove particles in the eye.
  • Seek medical attention immediately if the cut shows signs of infection.

For foreign particles:

  • Pull upper lid down onto lower lid and let lower lashes sweep the particle away.
  • Blink repeatedly until the particle goes away; try not to rub.
  • Seek medical attention if the above steps don’t work or if the material scratches your cornea.

For chemical splashes:

  • Use your fingers to separate lids. Then wash the eye with water from a faucet or clean container.
  • Continue washing for several minutes while rolling your eyeball.
  • Don’t cover your eye with a bandage.
  • Seek immediate medical attention.

Blows to the eye:

  • Gently apply an ice compress to reduce swelling and ease the pain.
  • Seek immediate medical attention.
Are there any specific foods or vitamins that prevent loss
of eyesight?

Previous studies have shown that diets rich in green, leafy vegetables lower the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), but the levels one might get in foods are low compared to a supplement given to patients in a recent study (Age Related Eye Disease Study—AREDS) here at Emory and nationwide.

The study showed that the supplements, which consisted of several antioxidant vitamins and zinc, significantly reduced the risk of advanced AMD and its associated vision loss in patients at high risk of developing advanced stages of AMD. The high doses of the study supplement, now available over the counter, are not right for everyone. The supplements are only appropriate for those with intermediate or advanced AMD (wet type).

Is macular degeneration a genetic disease?

The risk factors for developing macular degeneration are the following, in order of significance:

  • Age
  • Smoking
  • Heredity
What new developments are currently being offered by Emory to assist those who may be losing vision?

Active intervention options include laser treatment, photo-dynamic therapy (PDT), and surgical removal of scarring membranes or neo-vascularization. Palliative therapy includes low-vision devices such as the JORDY, a head-mounted binocular-like vision device that includes a computer chip. Other devices include computer-type monitors that "read" type and enlarge it.

Six common sense ways to prevent eye injuries
  • When spraying chemicals, make sure the nozzle is pointed away from your face.
  • Use a shield over the pan when frying foods.
  • Wear safety goggles when using power tools, welding equipment or tools that spark or flame, poisonous chemicals, gardening equipment, etc.
  • Supervise children when they are playing with dangerous toys or games, pellet guns or fireworks.
  • Wear protective eyewear when playing sports such as racquetball, baseball, basketball or tennis.
  • Wear latex gloves (powderless) when cutting up hot peppers so that the oils do not transfer to eyes or contact lenses.
Image of child playing soccer

Why safety glasses matter

Eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness in children in the United States. Many of those injuries are sports related.

safety glassesAccording to the National Eye Institute (NEI), ninety percent of these injuries could be prevented with the use of protective eyewear.

[web link] "Why safety glasses matter," a 9th grader's compelling story. Emory Eye Magazine, 2012-13, p15.

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