Doctors giving free eye exams

January 17, 2008 5:43:39 PM PST
A recent survey by the American Academy of Ophthalmology finds many older Americans do not get their vision checked because they often don't recognize the signs of eye disease. Other seniors say they simply can't afford it. A national program is hoping to change that, making eye exams available to seniors in need.

(Call 1-866-324-EYES for a free screening)

"I probably could use a new prescription. I'm having some difficulty right now. I was born with a lazy eye and I was cross-eyed," says Sandra Falabrino, eye patient.

Sandra Falabrino went in for an routine eye exam with San Francisco ophthalmologist, Dr. Andrew Iwach. Sandra has had eye and vision problems for much of her life.

The cost of this eye exam could have been a problem for Sandra.

"I don't have insurance, I'm not eligible right now until Social Security kicks in."

But this exam is free. Dr. Iwach is one of more than 70,000 ophthalmologists across the country volunteering to give eye exams as part of something called 'Eye Care America'.

The free screenings are available to seniors 65 and older who don't have insurance and haven't seen an opthalmologist in the last three years. What is surprising is that many seniors fit that criteria. Eye Care America hopes these screenings will change that

Using a slit lamp, Dr Iwach checks for other eye problems such as macular degeneration. The goal is to detect problems early.

"Through this program, not only do we look for macular degeneration, but we also look for other potential blinding eye diseases and help diagnose them," says Dr. Iwach.

Dr. Iwach is a glaucoma specialist. Using a strange blue device, he can pick up any abnormal eye pressure, which is an early sign of the blinding disease.

Sandra is grateful for the checkup.

"I think it is as important to have your eyes checked for glaucoma or macular degeneration for that matter - or any disease of the eye as often as you would have your general checkup."

Dr Iwach says things look good for Sandra and looks forward to seeing her again in the next year or sooner, depending on her symptoms.

There are more than one hundred bay area ophthalmologists participating in this free eye screening program for seniors.

(Call 1-866-324-EYES for a free screening)