For those of us wanting to have overall good health, it’s important to be proactive. Avoiding visits to the eye doctor until symptoms become worse can cause serious risks to your eyes. Scheduling routine eye exams and check-ups with an eye doctor is an important and safe step to ensuring the best quality of care for your eyes and health.
Why Are Eye Exams Important?
Eye exams aren’t just for people who have vision problems. An annual eye exam is important for everyone—no matter age or physical health—to maintain healthy eyes, prevent vision problems, and diagnose diseases early.
During a comprehensive eye exam, your eye doctor does much more than just determine your prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses. He or she will also check your eyes for common eye diseases, assess how your eyes work together as a team and evaluate your eyes as an indicator of your overall health.
Also, eye doctors often are the first health care professionals to detect chronic systemic diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
Regardless of your age or physical health, it’s important to have regular eye exams.
What is the doctor looking for?
During an eye exam, an eye doctor is not only determining the quality of your vision, but they’re also looking for symptoms that could cause eye diseases or disorders. Symptoms your eye doctor check for include:
- Refractive error:This refers to nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. Refractive errors are corrected with eyeglasses, contacts or surgery.
- Amblyopia:This occurs when the eyes are turned or when one eye has a much different prescription than the other. The brain will “shut off” the image from the turned or blurry eye. Left untreated, amblyopia can stunt the visual development of the affected eye, resulting in permanent vision impairment. Amblyopia is often treated by patching the stronger eye for periods of time.
- Strabismus:Strabismus is defined as crossed or turned eyes. The examiner will check your eyes’ alignment to be sure that they are working together. Strabismus causes problems with depth perception and can lead to amblyopia.
- Focusing problems:These problems can range from incompletely developed focusing skills in children to normal age-related declines in focusing ability (presbyopia) among older adults.
- Eye Diseases:Many eye diseases, such as glaucoma, have no symptoms in their early stages. Your optometrist will check the health of your eyes inside and out for signs of early problems. In most cases, early detection and treatment of eye diseases can help reduce your risk for permanent vision loss.
- Other Diseases:eye doctors can detect early signs of some conditions and diseases by looking at your eye’s blood vessels and retina. Your eye doctor may be able to tell you if you are developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol or other problems.
Visiting an eye doctor frequently will prevent many eye diseases and disorders from getting worse, saving you time and money. Make sure to schedule regular appointments with your eye doctor, no matter your age, symptoms, or current health status.
After a comprehensive exam, your eye doctor will discuss the findings and offer treatment options best suited to your needs.
What is the difference between vision screening and a complete eye exam?
Vision screenings are limited eye tests that help identify people who are at risk for vision problems. These are the brief vision tests performed by the school nurse, a pediatrician, other health care providers or volunteers. The eye test that you take when you get your driver’s license renewed is an example of a vision screening. Depending on who is performing the test and where the test is given, vision screenings may include tests for blur, muscle coordination and/or common eye diseases. Keep in mind that a vision screening can indicate that you need to get your eyes checked, but it does not serve as a substitute for a comprehensive eye exam.
A comprehensive eye examination is performed by an eye doctor and includes careful testing of all aspects of your vision. Based on the results of your exam, your eye doctor will then recommend a treatment plan for your individual needs.
A comprehensive eye exam should include testing to determine if the patient’s eyes are aligned is important. Some patients have crossed eyes or turned eyes, suggesting that the two eyes are not working together (strabismus). Strabismus can lead to poor depth perception and the inability to achieve “perfect vision” (20/20), also known as amblyopia.
The comprehensive eye exam should also include testing that will assess focusing skills in children and adults. In adults (starting around 40 years of age) the eye’s ability to focus up close begins to decrease (presbyopia). Presbyopia is not serious, but only the correct prescription will help.
Remember, only an optometrist or ophthalmologist can provide a comprehensive eye exam — family physicians and pediatricians are not fully trained to do this, and studies have shown that they can miss important vision problems that require treatment.
How often should I get my eyes checked?
A yearly eye exam is a good idea, but consider the following when determining how often to see your eye doctor:
- After 40 years old, having an eye exam every 18 to 24 months is a good idea.
- At around 60 years of age, annual exams should be considered because of the increased risk of developing cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration and other diseases of the aging eye.
- An annual exam and prescription evaluation is necessary for contact lens wearers. This will ensure there are no unwanted effects of contact lens wear and make sure your contact lens prescription is up-to-date.
- People with diabetes should have eye examinations at least every year or as recommended by their ophthalmologist, since they are more at risk for several eye disorders, including diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and cataracts.
When visiting an eye doctor, you’re not only taking care of your current vision, but you’re also decreasing the possibility of other eye disorders and diseases. Eye doctors are professionally trained to find and diagnose all abnormal and unhealthy symptoms found within the eyes; so, a frequent check-up regime will save you time, health, and money.
Doctor Gregg Feinerman is a world-renowned eye surgeon based in Newport Beach, California. As an Orange County eye surgeon, he specializes in LASIK vision correction and cataract surgeries. He and his friendly, knowledgeable staff are available to help you achieve your optimal eye health needs at Feinerman Vision Center.