Ready for Your Appointment? Don’t Forget Your Spouse

It’s pretty common for people to bring along a family member or friend to medical appointments…why should an eye exam be any different?

Ready for Your Appointment? Don’t Forget Your Spouse Image

Gone are the days when vision testing was all about which way the E was pointing. Today’s examinations are comprehensive—and at times confusing. A second set of eyes (and ears) can be helpful when it comes to asking questions and remembering information.

In addition to determining the correct glasses or contact lens prescription, exams are crucial in making sure the eyes themselves are healthy to rule out ailments like cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

A variety of tests run the gamut from low tech to something seemingly out of science fiction. On the simple side are the eye muscle movement tests where the doctor asks the patient to follow his finger with his or her eyes. Also known as the “cover test” where you stare at something while one eye is covered and uncovered and the external exam during which the professional checks the overall health of the whites of the eyes and eyelids as well as the pupil’s reaction to light.

More diagnostic information can be gleaned from special machines like a silt lamp to examine the cornea, iris and lens and an ophthalmoscope to look at the retina, its blood vessels and the optic nerve head when the eyes have been dilated. The glaucoma exam involves either the tonometer test where the eyes are numbed and then gently touched with a measuring instrument to determine the pressure or a puff of air is blown into the eyes for the same purpose. Other machines can be employed to help determine the correct lens prescription, to occasionally measure the thickness of the cornea or to glean other information about a person’s eye health.

In addition to the various tests, getting the most out of an eye exam requires a two-way street of exchange. One way spouses can help is to ensure all the necessary information is brought to the appointment. Some things to consider include:

• General medical history

• List of prescription medications including name and amount

• Information about any supplements, vitamins and/or herbal remedies being taken including name and amount

• Written notes about any symptoms, concerns and/or questions

Spouses can also work as research assistants. With sometimes complicated medical terminology being thrown around, it’s not unusual to struggle to keep up. Often during eye appointments there are breaks between portions of the exam. This is a perfect time for a loved one to pull out his or her smartphone and do a little in-depth research while still in the office where it’s easy to ask questions.

While hopefully not necessary, spouses can also act as advocates. Generally speaking, loved ones should be quiet observers during doctor/patient discussions and refrain from butting in unless asked for information or help. However, if questions are not being answered to everyone’s satisfaction or the person seeing the doctor seems confused, gently guiding the conversation to make sure everything is discussed and understood could be helpful.

Finally, spouses can offer moral support. No one likes to be poked and prodded—or bored-to-death waiting—and having company can help the time pass more quickly. Just remember, keep the conversation light. This isn’t the time to nag about who didn’t take out the garbage. Save it for after a successful eye exam.