Fear of going to the eye doctor is a real thing. If you feel anxious, nervous or scared in anticipation of getting an eye exam, you’re not alone. In addition to going to the doctor which can be anxiety provoking for some, many people also get squeamish when it comes to having their eyes examined. Read on to learn about how to deal with anxiety when going to the eye doctor and why it’s vital to your vision that you go.
The Problem With Eye Doctor Anxiety
Having anxiety can make life more challenging. Generalized anxiety can make it difficult to accomplish everyday tasks and face anything that is out of your usual routine. Even if you don’t suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder you may have a genuine phobia of the eye doctor, or having your eyes examined. There is an extreme condition known as Ommetaphobia, which is a fear of anything to do with the eyes. This includes touching the eyes, eye contact, or having eyes touched or examined. Anything eye related can bring on panic attacks.
Even if you don’t have Ommetaphobia, any anxiety or fear can prevent you from getting routine check-ups. Fear of the unknown can make going to doctor’s appointments stressful. This could be why according to a Healthing article, 60% of Canadians have signs of vision problems and don’t visit their eye doctor. If you are nervous about having an eye exam there are some things you can do to prepare.
Tips for Dealing With Eye Doctor Visit Anxiety
Talk to your eye doctor before your appointment. Ask what they will be doing. Tell them you are nervous and explain what your fears are. Don’t be embarrassed. Fear of the eye doctor is common. A good eye doctor will do what they can to make sure you are comfortable.
Take Baby Steps
If you are squeamish about getting eye drops, ask your eye doctor if they are needed on the first visit. Often an exam can be done without them. Once you are more comfortable with your eye doctor after a couple of visits, you may feel ready to get eye drops.
Get Extra Support
Talk to your doctor, therapist or naturopath to get tips for how to handle anxiety. There are natural remedies that can calm your nervous system when it goes into overdrive (valerian, chamomile, lavender)- just be sure to get your doctor’s approval first and make sure it is something that won’t interfere with your eye exam results.
It may sound simple but deep breathing can help with nervousness. When we are nervous or anxious we tend to hold our breath which puts our bodies into fight or flight mode. Deep breaths signal the body to relax.
Treat Yourself Like Your Child
If your child or someone you loved was afraid of going to the eye doctor, especially if there was some concern for his/her eye health, you would provide them with the support they needed to go. Take care of yourself the same way. It may not be comfortable but it is important to take care of your eye health before a serious issue crops up by having routine eye exams.
Why It’s Important To Face Your Fears
It’s important for you to have routine eye exams even if you’re nervous. Here are some facts from the Canadian Ophthalmological Society that may shed some light on what Canadians are risking by not taking care of their eye health:
- 5.5 million Canadians (1 in 7) have vision threatening eye conditions
- 75% of all vision loss and blindness is preventable or treatable with early intervention
- Vision loss is expected to increase by nearly 30% in the next decade
- 1 in 9 Canadians develop irreversible vision loss by age 65
- Seniors with vision loss experience more hip fractures, falls, depression and are more likely to end up in a nursing home
If I have good eyesight do I still need to see the eye doctor?
Signs you need to see the eye doctor don’t always include changes in vision. You might need to see the eye doctor if you have frequent headaches, are having trouble focussing or feel like you have something in your eye, which might be dry eye. If you don’t have any of these you might think you don’t need an exam, but you shouldn’t wait until you think you need glasses to visit the optometrist. Remember how we said 75% of blindness is preventable? If you lost your sight, wouldn’t it be worse knowing that it might have been prevented?
Even if you’re not having symptoms your eyes should be checked routinely for:
- Glaucoma– this condition often doesn’t present with symptoms until it is more advanced. It leads to an increase in pressure in the eyes that can cause permanent vision loss and blindness, and may be hereditary. It doesn’t just affect seniors.
- Diabetic Retinopathy- those with diabetes are at increased risk for eye disease, but many people have the disease and don’t even know it. In fact, eye doctors are often the first to notice the signs of damage that occur with high blood sugar. The Canadian Ophthalmologists Society notes that damage may start to occur 4-7 years before diagnosis in many cases. If you’re over 20, you have a 50% chance of being diagnosed with diabetes in your lifetime.
- Vision Changes– any change or deterioration in vision should be noted. Without a baseline you won’t be able to determine how much your vision has changed over time and when there is cause for concern. Vision changes may be a sign of MS or other neurological conditions.
Fear of Getting Glasses
In some cases people fear going to the eye doctor because they don’t want to get glasses or are worried because their vision is blurry and fear the worst. Getting glasses can improve your overall quality of life and make it safer to drive. Not wanting to know what is causing vision changes isn’t going to make them go away. It bears repeating that in most cases blindness is preventable. Seeing your eye doctor can fix vision problems, prevent future ones and protect your eyesight long-term.
We’re Here to Help
If you or someone you know is afraid of the eye doctor, or has anxiety about eye exams, we’re here to help. Be sure to tell us before your appointment about your concerns and we will answer any questions you might have. Follow the tips to reduce your anxiety or seek help if you have an anxiety disorder, and then come in for a visit. You, and your vision are worth it.