Women ... Are you overlooking your routine eye exam?

Every year, when you walk into your primary care physician or OBGYN’s office for your annual exam, how often did you receive a routine eye exam as part of the visit? The answer for most, if not all women, is never.

Family Vision Center, Connecticut’s oldest and largest optometric practice, is uniting the two important causes to raise awareness on a highly overlooked, but essential health care issue — the early detection of eyelid cancer and choroidal metastasis in women.

Routine eye exams are not typically conducted during an annual physical, which leaves a dangerous opportunity to overlook critical eye-health issues, including cancer. In the early stages of most eye cancers that affect women, there usually are no symptoms one would notice on their own.

The early signs are often discovered by an optometrist, but unless a woman has a specific vision issue, most are not likely to seek an eye exam as part of their health care regimen.

“Many patients wearing contact lenses that have UV protection in them think that’s all they need to protect their eyes, but they are mistaken,” said Dr. Helen Ambizas, OD, Family Vision Center. “The UV protection found in contacts only protects the area that the contact covers. The conjunctiva, eyelids and surrounding areas need to be protected with sunglasses and sunscreen to avoid skin cancer of the eyelids and adnexa. We carefully monitor any changes during routine eye exams.”

Preventative care is crucial to maintaining good health, but many busy women; particularly young mothers with a calendar already brimming with countless doctor’s appointments, are neglecting this important area in health care. If you or someone you know has been neglecting your eye care, please take a moment to read these alarming facts and then schedule your eye exam today:

• Most cancers of the eye and orbit in adults are melanomas, with lymphomas being the next most common. Both of these cancers start more often in other parts of the body. More than nine out of 10 melanomas start in the skin, while most lymphomas begin in lymph nodes.

• Most eyelid skin cancers occur on the lower lid, which receives the greatest amount of sun exposure. Skin cancers of the eyelid, including basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), as well as melanoma, account for up to 10 percent of all skin cancers.

• Malignant tumors from other parts of the body can spread in and around the eye, resulting in choroidal metastasis, which typically presents no symptoms. Cancer metastasis that appear in and around the eye are usually from a breast cancer in women. Patients with a history of cancer are at greatest risk and should have routine eye examinations.