Faculty Group Practice Newsletter

A senior woman with white hair is having an eye exam.

Check Your Vision: August is National Eye Exam Month

“The eyes are windows into the soul,” is a common expression that alludes to the emotion conveyed in an individual’s gaze.

Though it may not have the same ring, the eyes also serve as a window to health, as a routine exam may reveal not only vision problems but other issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, and even some types of cancer. National Eye Exam Month, observed each year in August, serves as a reminder that comprehensive eye exams are essential preventive health care for this reason.

“What’s unique about us is that we are the gateway to the ophthalmology department. We are primary eye care specialists,” UTMB optometrist Praveena Gupta, PhD, OD, MS, FAAO, says.

UTMB’s Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences includes a team of optometrists who provide these valuable screenings across UTMB’s service area.

Dr. Gupta and her colleagues Matthew Crookston, OD, and Ashton Ehlers, OD, have recently been joined by three new team members: Cassie Rogers, OD; Wenjie Zhan, OD; and Kelsi Jones, OD. This growth helps ensure UTMB is well-prepared to see both pediatric and adult patients for all their primary care vision needs.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends yearly exams beginning at age 65. However, that does not mean vision care should wait until then. The AAO indicates that individuals with healthy eyes and good vision should have at least one eye exam in their 20s and two in their 30s, with regular exams beginning at age 40. This is when early signs of disease or changes in vision may begin.

Those with health concerns such as diabetes or high blood pressure, or a family history of eye disease, should begin having eye exams as early as possible and follow their doctor’s recommendation for frequency.

“If they have a family history, we definitely want them to be seen sooner. We can rule out that they also have the same disease of the eye at early onset. And if we detect it early, then we can treat them further and faster,” Dr. Gupta says.

Late summer and early fall are especially busy times for the team, as many individuals use their vision benefits before the new plan year, and parents take their children for exams before the new school year. With these exams often come new glasses, including sunglasses and those designed for special purposes like sports and industrial safety, and contact lenses.

In addition, Dr. Gupta is one of very few low-vision specialists in the region, caring for patients whose vision is not correctable by standard glasses or contact lenses. She spends time discussing the variety of tools available to help them, as patients with low vision face quality-of-life concerns that range from fall risks to the inability to read and sign important documents.

The routine eye exam can also be a critical first step to receiving care for a wide range of health concerns, for which patients may receive care from UTMB’s optometrists, their colleagues in Ophthalmology, and other providers across various specialties.

Diabetic care is one example where a multi-specialty approach is important. Dr. Gupta and Dr. Crookston both see patients with diabetes, which is the leading cause of vision loss in patients 18 to 64 years old. Routine dilated eye examination is critical for these patients because the patient often does not know that early-stage diabetic eye damage is occurring.

“A patient can be sustaining damage and it doesn't affect their vision necessarily, and it doesn't affect the comfort of their eyes, but it's possible for a person to be headed towards having a catastrophic loss of vision. They wouldn't know it unless they have their eyes checked," Dr. Crookston says.

Fortunately, UTMB’s Family Medicine physicians routinely refer their diabetic patients to optometry to look for any ocular manifestations of the disease.

“Thankfully, most of them don't have any,” Dr. Crookston says. “But if I do run into a patient that has a problem, then I'm able to refer them to our retina service for appropriate treatment if they need any other interventional care.”

Conditions like glaucoma and macular degeneration become greater concerns as patients age, hence the need for annual exams at age 65. For these and other retinal conditions, the optometrists work closely with their ophthalmology counterparts to determine the right course of treatment and refer out as needed.

Dr. Gupta says that it is never too late for an eye exam. For any patient that needs immediate attention, the best first step is to call in for an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam.


Headshot of Praveena GuptaHeadshot of Matthew Crookston

Praveena Gupta, PhD, OD, MS, FAAO, sees patients at the UTMB Health Eye Center in Galveston. Matthew Crookston, OD, sees patients at the UTMB Health Eye Center in Texas City.

Learn more about vision care services at UTMB.


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