Optometry: Eyes on vision readiness

  • Published
  • By Kristen Wong
  • Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling Public Affairs
JOINT BASE ANACOSTIA-BOLLING, Washington, D.C. - The ability to see clearly is often taken for granted, but vision impairment can be the difference between mission success and mission failure.
The 316th Medical Squadron Optometry Clinic on Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling provides quality eye care for Airmen in the National Capital Region and ensures they remain ready for the Air Force mission. The clinic operates under the 316th Medical Group, which provides care to more than 455,000 beneficiaries across the NCR. All services are in support of their mission, “Mobilize, deploy, and sustain medical services; maintain the health of the force; and deliver safe, effective and timely healthcare to those we serve, anytime, anywhere.”
U.S. Air Force Maj. Brooke Kibel, 316th MDS optometry element chief, recommends annual or biennial eye examinations, even if there are no major issues to note and vision appears to be normal.
Changes in vision are gradual and can be easily overlooked; patients are often unaware their vision has changed at all until they see how it can be improved.
“We show Airmen the best they can see at 20 feet,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Tosha Parson, 316th MDS optometry technician. “We can also answer questions like why their computer screens seem blurry or why they have to hold their phones closer or pull it back farther in order to see clearly.”
The Optometry Clinic provides comprehensive eye examinations addressing refractive error, actor and chronic ocular health conditions, and the treatment and management of ocular disease. Services include primary eye care, diagnosis and treatment of eye disease, evaluation of ocular manifestations of diabetes and other systemic disease, vision testing for driver’s license renewal, eyeglass dispensing for active duty and retired members, Department of Defense Medical Evaluation Review Board examinations and flight physicals.
“A lot of what we do is education,” said Kibel. “Many people assume if they can see, their eyes are fine. But there’s still a health component to it. There are so many things outside of your eyes that we can diagnose. We can diagnose diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol issues and other medical conditions; any type of systemic health issue can be reflected in the eye.”
The optometry team also advises against ignoring any symptoms where vision becomes anything other than normal. Patients often dismiss seemingly minor symptoms that could be considered visual emergencies. Problematic symptoms include flashes of light, floating spots, any sudden loss of vision, etc. In any situation where vision becomes anything other than normal, Airmen should contact the Optometry Clinic as soon as possible.
Kibel warns that the most extreme consequence of not addressing eye issues is permanent loss of vision.
“The risk of that happening is very, very low, less than 1%, but it’s still important to come in if you have symptoms. If you’re blinking your eyes and it’s not going away and the symptoms are persistent, that’s when you want to get it looked at,” Kibel said.
Unlike most other duty stations, service members stationed on JBAB are not limited to the Optometry Clinic on JBAB; optometry patients can be seen at any of the base clinics in the NCR. Patients calling the appointment line can specifically request to be scheduled for JBAB or they can request the first available appointment at any of the clinics in the area.
While eye health may not generally be considered one of the most pressing health concerns, maintaining good eye health and vision is important for Airmen’s overall health and mission readiness.
Kibel added, “Airmen don’t need the [minor vision adjustments] to survive but that tiny prescription can make a huge and unexpected impact on their quality of life.”
To schedule an appointment with the Optometry Clinic, call the appointment line at 888-999-1212.