UT students must travel off campus for eye exams

Savana Dunning

For students such as Devany Rodriguez, getting proper eye care means traveling back home to visit an optometrist.

“I usually get them done in the summer,” journalism junior Rodriguez said about her regular eye exams. “I live in Laredo, and I go back … over the summer, so I get it done there. I think it’s cheaper over there. I have my doctor over there, and he has my files and everything so that’s easier for me.”

From staring at the blue light of computer screens to squinting at a PowerPoint from the fifth row of the lecture hall, students strain their eyes every day while earning their degrees. Sixty-one percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 need vision correction, according to the optical industry research organization Vision Council. 

While University Health Services is a student resource for general health care, it does not provide eye exams. Sherry Bell, UHS Consumer Education and Outreach Coordinator, said optometry is a more specialized service than what UHS can provide. UHS operates more like a general doctor’s office that handles issues such as colds or flu shots, Bell said.

“We’re a primary care medical facility, and consequently we don’t offer a lot of specialty medical care,” Bell said. “When we’re looking at the kinds of things we provide, we’re looking at our services based on the resources we have available and our budget, so we do what most students need most frequently.”

The American Optometric Association recommends students get regular eye exams to recognize and prevent future eye problems. While students can’t get eye exams from UHS, there are still ways to receive eye care within walking distance of UT. There are two optometry practices within half a mile of campus.

Sonja Franklin, an optometrist at Modern Eyes Optical in West Campus, said students usually come in when they are worried about their eyesight, but a prescription is not always the solution.

“Just because someone is having an eye issue doesn’t necessarily mean they need a prescription,” Franklin said. “They could have an eye alignment issue, there could be a medical issue, so all of those components are a part of a comprehensive eye exam.”

For students such as Rodriguez, getting regular eye exams over the summer is the easiest option. She said she started getting regular eye exams after starting college because she knows they can help her when her glasses prescription starts to fail.

“It doesn’t get any better,” Rodriguez said. “Every year your eyesight gets worse and worse. There come times when I know my prescription is not working anymore, I get headaches and just can’t see anymore, so that’s why I take them every year.”

Franklin said while annual exams are recommended, students should visit an optometrist any time they notice something wrong with their eyes.

“If you notice any type of change in your vision, you don’t want to ignore that, any type of pain with contact lens wear you don’t want to ignore that as well,” Franklin said. “We can treat most things, but sometimes people let things go too far and we have fewer options available.”