Routine Eye Exams Can Diagnose Bigger Issues: Stargardt Disease

There are certain doctor’s appointments that I dread. The top three appointments that can cause me to lose sleep include annual OB/GYN visits, mammograms, and eye exams. For me, my annual eye exam always happened right around the start of school.

In an online video by American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF), 11-year-old Meaghan went for a routine eye exam, too, but her diagnosis of Stargardt disease went beyond reading eye charts and picking out new frames.
Stargardt disease is an inherited progressive eye disease that causes vision loss in children and young adults. There is no cure for Stargardt, and it can’t be corrected with eyeglasses, contact lenses, or surgery.

I don’t mind the eye doctor’s machine that measures my eye’s diameter. I don’t even mind the annoying puff of air that tests for glaucoma and makes me jump every time. What causes me the most anxiety is reading the eye chart.

My eyes suck. They always have. Both of parents wear glasses. It was inevitable. I’ve had glasses since first grade. I may have had glasses, but I didn’t always wear them. In fact, it was my first-grade teacher who ratted me out to my parents that I wasn’t wearing them in class. I could see the chalkboard. I swear.

There were a number of years when I actually memorized the chart and managed to avoid getting glasses. Smart, huh? Then the miracle of contact lenses entered my life. I could have my vision corrected without wearing glasses—cue the angels singing Halleluiah! I could see again and no glasses hanging off my nose. I was able to wear them for most of my 20s and 30s. It was wonderful but short-lived. Once again, I was picking through lenses and frames.

Now, I wear glasses all the time. They correct for my nearsightedness, night blindness, and astigmatism. I still go for my annual eye exam. I usually schedule it right around the first of September, just for old time’s sake. I now fully appreciate the thoroughness of each eye exam, even the eye chart. And I no longer try to memorize it. Mom and Dad are so proud.

To read more about living with eye disease, click here.

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