People are relying on apps more than ever to monitor and analyze their own health and well-being. So it’s not surprising to find apps that allow you to check your own vision and even order your own contacts online. Of course, before you can take an online vision test, you’ll see a disclaimer, stating that they are “not a substitute for a comprehensive eye exam.” But can an app actually replace your annual trip to the eye doctor?
Vision testing apps are a form of “telemedicine” that was originally developed as a quick way to screen for disease or illness. Moreover, if you have a fairly routine prescription, some of the apps have actually proven to be fairly accurate at determining your prescription. And for early detection, especially in remote places where conventional medical attention isn’t available, or for those who can’t afford basic eye care, telemedicine may be the best option – because it’s the only option.
However, even if an app declares that you have 20/20 vision, here are 7 reasons why you’ll still want a qualified human being to look you in the eyes:
- Your eye health goes far beyond your prescription. Even if you have good vision, there are things that are detected through a comprehensive eye exam that have nothing to do with your prescription. At Takle Eye Group, when we perform a comprehensive eye exam, we’re looking at the overall health of your eye. We check your eye pressure; we check your corneas, lenses, and retinas. Online exams cannot detect the medical well-being of your eyes.
- Your eyes are spherical. Vision apps take a picture of only the posterior pole (this includes some of the blood vessels, optic nerve and the macula). These pictures only show a small part of the eye. Our trained Ophthalmologists, on the other hand, examine the anterior and posterior of your eye. Patients with an astigmatism or who have higher than a -6.50 prescription need to have their eyes dilated yearly. Dilation is the only way to make sure that there is nothing abnormal happening in the back of the eye.
- You wear contacts. Contact lenses are a medical device, and how they fit on your cornea can change from year to year. In addition, many contact lens wearers get so used to their contacts that they don’t follow all the guidelines: They sleep in their contacts, wear them too long without replacing them, and wear them too many hours in the day. Doing these things can cause corneal ulcers, inflammation or swelling of the cornea, infections, etc. This swelling can change your prescription and can be detected with a slit lamp during an exam. That’s something online exams simply can’t do. If you rely solely on an “eye exam” on an app and order contacts without having an eye doctor monitor the changing condition of your eyes, you’re putting your eyes at risk and potentially causing permanent vision loss.
- Your prescription needs a major change. Making huge jumps in a prescription is often uncomfortable, making it tempting not to wear those new glasses. At Takle Eye Group, we can adjust your prescription gradually to allow your eyes to adapt, maintaining your vision at the best it can be, every step of the way.
- You have diabetes. Patients with diabetes can have bleeding in any part of the eye, and patients who are having symptoms of flashes, floaters, and narrowing of periphery (signs of retinal detachments, holes, and tears) need to have their eyes examined by a professional. If you have suffered a retinal detachment or tear, you risk permanent vision loss or even blindness without professional care.
- You’re a child. Apps are not a suitable way to check eyesight in children. The wrong eyeglass prescription could affect the way their eyes develop.
- Diagnosis is not science alone; it’s also art. Apps are designed to provide a “yes or no” answer, but it takes a doctor to perceive a potential problem or assess the degree of an existing one. Even advanced diagnostic equipment can under-detect or even fail to detect certain medical conditions, which can give a false sense of security to patients who may already be experiencing symptoms of a disease. Our Ophthalmologists use our experience and judgement to interpret the findings of our equipment, and discover, diagnose, and treat conditions that advanced equipment fails to detect.
So, while strides in telemedicine have facilitated diagnosis and care in remote areas where secondary care is not that accessible, apps and online vision tests are no replacement for regular eye exams. Only your doctor can detect sight-threatening conditions such as glaucoma or diabetes retinopathy. At Takle Eye Group, ensuring your best vision is our only focus.