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See yourself to the eye care clinics

by 2nd Lt. Erin Blanchard
6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
photo by 2nd Lt. Erin Blanchard
Capt. (Dr.) Charles Beatty (left) conducts an eye exam for Navy Cmdr. Jill Stouffer through a bio-microscope. The eye-care clinics are located inside the base hospital and at the new Brandon Clinic. Both clinics can be reached at 828-3866. ...

Many people don't think about their eyes until they start holding the menu farther and farther away at a restaurant, the night before a driver-license eye exam, when they hear nearly three million people have glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness in the United States, or when they see the newest laser assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) commercial. Once coming to the realization about checking your eyes, MacDill's eye-care clinics offer many services. Lt. Col.

(Dr.) Parker Plante, optometry flight commander, said, "People should receive an eye exam once a year. At the clinics, we have great availability, see all active duty, plus we accept Tricare Prime and Plus."

The optometry and ophthalmology clinics work closely to provide the best care possible to its patients. "The optometry clinic is self-referral and offers primary eye-care doctors," said Plante.

"The ophthalmology clinic is by referral only and encompasses medical surgery treatment of the eye," said Army Maj. (Dr.) David Simon, chief of ophthalmology.

Many people receive their annual eye exam in January, the month of national glaucoma awareness. Glaucoma is a disease that causes a gradual degeneration of cells that make up the optic nerve, which sends visual information from the eye to the brain. Once nerve cells begin to die, vision is slowly lost, usually starting in the periphery.

"Elevated pressure in the eye brings a higher risk of having glaucoma," said Simon. "The loss of vision usually is not noticed until a significant amount of nerve damage has occurred. Half of the population who have glaucoma may be unaware that they have the disease."

There are not any symptoms of glaucoma in the beginning; your vision remains normal and there is no pain. As the disease intensifies, the field of vision narrows and blindness results. Studies show some people are at a higher risk of having the disease. African-Americans over age 40, anyone over age 60 or people with a family history of glaucoma fall under the high-risk population. Plante and Simon agree that coming in to get an annual eye exam could prevent eye diseases.

Many people come to the eye-care center to ask about LASIK surgery. The Air Force does not perform LASIK surgery; however, it does perform photo-refractive keratectomy (PRK).

"LASIK and PRK both have the same outcome," said Simon. "LASIK is more marketable because there is less pain involved and a quicker recovery. However, the Air Force uses PRK because LASIK can have cornea flap complications." There are five laser centers throughout the Air Force that perform the surgery, U. S. Air Force Academy, Colo.; Travis Air Force Base, Calif.; Keesler AFB, Miss.; Wilford Hall Medical Center, San Antonio, and Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio. The following considerations must be understood before the surgery takes place. Any active-duty member must receive approval from his or her squadron commander. After the surgery you will have one week convalescence leave, one month of duty restrictions, six mandatory medical appointments in the first year and will not be deployable for four months.

"The surgery is great and lets many Air Force members fly when they wouldn't be able to if they didn't receive the surgery," said Plante. "However, I cannot stress enough, if you are considering this surgery, there is a chance refractive surgery could permanently disqualify future military aviators from a wide range of aviation duties."

The eye-care center is located inside the base hospital and at the new Brandon Clinic. Both clinics can be reached at 828-3866.




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