Year after year, the State Fair of Texas serves up a veritable feast for fairgoers’ eyes. From the presence of Big Tex, the world’s tallest cowboy, and the tantalizing sight of Fair classics like corny dogs and cotton candy, to the sweeping views of the downtown Dallas skyline from the Top ‘o Texas Tower, everyone has a cache of cherished images from the Fair.1
To help Texans continue to enjoy these eye-catching sights, free adult eye health and vision screenings will be held at the Fair on World Sight Day, October 11th. World Sight Day is an annual day of awareness to focus attention on avoidable blindness and visual impairment.2
The screenings will take place that Thursday from 10 am to 9 pm in a 30-by-60 foot tent located on the fairground’s Nimitz Terrace. Adults aged 60 years and older also receive free admission to the Fair on Thursdays, which are designated Senior Days.1
First for the Fair
This is the first time eye health and vision screenings are taking place at the Fair, which is expected to attract more than 2 million visitors between September 28th and October 21st.1
The screenings are supported by the Alcon Foundation, which works to advance and improve the quality of eye health, education and access to care in underserved areas. Established in Fort Worth in 1945, Alcon embodies the Fair theme of “Celebrating Texas Innovation” through its mission of providing innovative products that enhance quality of life by helping people see better. Today, Alcon is the eye care division of global healthcare company Novartis and remains in Fort Worth.1
“We decided to conduct eye health screenings at the Fair because fairgoers represent a cross section of the population of Texas,” said Melissa Thompson, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Alcon and President of the Alcon Foundation. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to introduce eye health into an event that has a strong history and tradition of representing Texas.”
The screenings will be conducted by a volunteer team of more than 40 eye care professionals, including the staffs of the Community Eye Clinic in Fort Worth and the Cornerstone Cataract Clinic in Dallas. The clinics serve individuals who are “uninsured or underinsured,” according to Jennifer Deakins, OD, FAAO, Director of the Community Eye Clinic. Both are supported by the Alcon Foundation and Alcon Cares, the company’s patient assistance program.
“On Oct. 11th, we’re closing our clinic in Fort Worth and our sister clinic in Dallas and bringing our staff, intern and faculty doctors to conduct the screenings at the Fair,” she said. Joining the clinic staffs will be about 20 optometrists and ophthalmologists from the Dallas/Fort Worth community who are volunteering their time for the event.
And while organizers are targeting 300 screenings, “we would love to see as many as 500 people,” Jenn added. “That would be huge, but I have doctors staged to cover those numbers.”
Focus on Early Identification
The doctors will conduct eye health and visual screenings in an effort to identify eye problems as early as possible. About 80 percent – four out of five cases – of visual impairment and blindness is avoidable. Much can prevented, treated or cured if identified early.3 In her experience as an optometrist who sees dozens of patients daily, Jenn said most people report the same common symptom.
“Often an adult will say ‘I have blurry vision,” she related.
The question is why. Changes in eyesight are common as individuals age and a natural part of the aging process.4 Many of those who complain about blurry vision may need glasses for the first time, a new prescription for glasses they’ve had for years, or an inexpensive pair of non-prescription readers they can purchase at a local pharmacy or dollar store.
However, blurry vision could also be a symptom of a sight-stealing disease that requires immediate treatment, such as cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration. These diseases are increasing in prevalence as people live longer lives.
The Fair screenings will include:
Visual acuity testing, which measures how well a person sees at near and far distances. This test helps a doctor determine if someone needs glasses, for example, or if there could be another problem that is preventing the individual from seeing clearly.5
Testing for glaucoma, the leading cause of irreversible blindness. Glaucoma often presents no symptoms until it has irreversibly damaged eyesight. As a result, half of those who have glaucoma don’t know it.6
An examination for retinal diseases or injuries, which can cause loss of sight. Two retinal diseases increasing in prevalence are diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of vision loss among people with diabetes and working-age adults, and age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss among adults age 50 and over. Injuries could include retinal tears or detachments.7
The Screening Process
Every screening at the Fair will begin by gathering information that includes a personal and family health history. Doctors will also ask the patient to describe any vision problems or concerns. With this information in hand, the doctor will conduct a visual acuity test to determine whether glasses would improve the individual’s vision.
Then, without dilating the eyes, the doctor will use a special camera to take a photograph of the retina or back of the eye. While this is not a replacement for a dilated retinal examination, the resulting image can nonetheless provide important clues about whether the patient may have an eye disease such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy or age-related macular degeneration. The final step in the exam is that of measuring eye pressure, a test that is used in diagnosing glaucoma.
Once all testing is completed, the patient will have a brief consultation with the doctor. The doctor will explain the screening results and advise the patient about how soon he or she should see an eye doctor. If the patient doesn’t have an eye doctor, a member of the eye care team will help locate an eye doctor near the patient’s home or work. The patient could also be referred for care to the Community Eye Clinic.
“The eye screenings could have an impact on the community, and not just the Dallas/Fort Worth community, but the larger Texas community and region, because the Fair draws people from all over,” Jenn said. “Seniors can visit the Fair for free on Oct. 11th, which is Senior Day. That’s important because eye care, especially preventive care, is so important in the senior community.”
After 65 years as the Fair’s official greeter, Big Tex reckons it’s high time for him to have his vision checked. So join him for an eye health screening and say “howdy” to the Gentle Giant.1
Read more about World Sight Day and your eye health.