Eye exam every year (2048 × 1366) 123RF

How many doctors do you see on a regular basis? Many of us probably go to the doctor for an annual physical and see a specialist regularly as well, but what about an eye doctor? If you haven’t seen an eyecare professional in the last year, now is a great time because August is Eye Exam Awareness Month. More importantly, a comprehensive eye exam is a good way to get a glimpse of your overall health. An eye doctor can look into your eyes and see the signs of chronic diseases, so it’s not just about making sure you can see—it’s how you see and how you want to keep seeing.

 

How often should you see an eye doctor?

Acknowledging your eyes truly are a window to your overall health, adults should get a thorough eye exam every year. During a routine exam, your eye care professional doesn’t just check to see if you need glasses or contact lenses. He or she also checks for eye diseases and is often the first one to spot a number of other chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, brain abnormalities, and even certain cancers.

A regular eye exam is especially important if you’re considered at risk for eye and vision problems. At-risk people are usually those with diabetes and high blood pressure, or who have a family history of eye disease like glaucoma or macular degeneration. But you might be surprised to know that “at risk” also includes contact lens wearers and people whose jobs are highly demanding visually. If you stare at a computer screen all day, you may also be considered at risk so you’ll want to be sure to get a thorough eye exam every year.

So how do you know if you’re experiencing an eye issue? Many eye diseases have no symptoms until the disease process is well advanced. Typically, vision issues manifest with blurred vision while driving or reading. You may also find yourself squinting at the television, feeling visual fatigue by the end of the day, or getting frequent headaches. If it’s been more than a year since your last visit to your eye doctor, it’s possible your prescription may be out of date.

 

Is an online exam good enough?

You may come across websites or smartphone apps that offer online eye exams. These services are definitely tempting. You can get your eyes checked from the comfort of your home instead of making an appointment with your eyecare professional, but you shouldn’t rely on an online test to give you a complete picture of your eye health. Here’s why:

  • An online exam can only show what vision correction you may need. In fact, the American Optometric Association has warned against online exams specifically because they aren’t thorough enough. For example, your phone or computer can’t do an eye pressure test to check for glaucoma, which means key indicators of potential health problems could be missed.
  • A comprehensive eye exam should include several different tests—many of which, today, have to be done face-to-face with the proper equipment.

 

Let’s talk eye tests: What type of tests are included in a comprehensive exam?

In addition to the routine eye pressure test, a comprehensive eye exam should include several different tests—many of which must be done face-to-face with the appropriate equipment. These include a slit lamp exam, which uses a unique microscope to review the structures of your eye, as well as pupil dilation, which can help detect conditions like a retinal detachment, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and glaucoma.

During your comprehensive exam, your doctor will also review your medical history to identify any risk factors for eye disease. He or she will then determine the appropriate tests for you. For instance, glaucoma, a group of eye diseases where damage to the optic nerve can cause blindness, is hereditary. So if you have a family member with glaucoma, chances are good your doctor will test you for it as well.

Patients living with diabetes may develop retinopathy, a complication of diabetes that is a result of leakage from blood vessels. It can cause blindness. Diabetics may also be at higher risk of developing cataracts, a gradual clouding of the eye’s lens. Older individuals may be at risk of experiencing AMD, an eye disease that causes damage to the macula, which is a tiny spot near the center of the eye that is responsible for seeing objects straight ahead.

Additionally, during your exam, your doctor will give you tests for vision sharpness, color-blindness, eye movement testing, depth perception, and, potentially, a peripheral vision test. All of these tests are helpful in diagnosing potential vision issues and determining the best method to address them. Based on your results, your doctor might also suggest additional testing.

 

What should I know about children’s eyes?

While you’re making your eye exam appointment, don’t forget about your kids. The American Optometric Association recommends children receive at least 3 eye exams by age 6; before they start school, starting as early as 6 months old. After that, they should be examined every 1 to 2 years, depending on whether they need vision correction and whether they are at risk for development of eye and vision problems. Your child should also see an eye care professional if you suspect a problem with their vision. Keep an eye out for these symptoms or behaviors:

  • Avoiding or disliking reading
  • Short attention span
  • Difficulty throwing or catching a ball, copying from a chalkboard, or tying their shoes
  • Pulling a book in close to their face or sitting too close to a TV
  • Lots of blinking or eye rubbing

Another reason to ensure your kids get regular eye exams is that nearly 80% of a child’s learning happens visually. Too often, a child who can’t see well is misdiagnosed with a totally unrelated behavioral problem like ADHD when they may only need a pair of glasses.

 

What should I tell my eye doctor during an exam?

Just like any other doctor appointment, an eye exam should include a robust dialogue with your doctor, with full transparency on the amount of time you spend staring at screens and tablets and whether you follow guidelines for things like sleeping with your contact lenses in. Sharing your lifestyle and habits with your eye doctor will allow him or her to provide guidance on optimal eye health for you. Some questions you may want to ask your eye doctor include:

  • Does my vision seem stable?
  • Are prescription sunglasses a good option for me?
  • How do I address tired eyes?
  • What kind of eye drops do you recommend?

If it’s been awhile since you or your kids had an eye exam, don’t put it off any longer. Make an appointment with an eye care professional today to help ensure good vision for life.

Howard Purcell, OD, FAAO
In his role at Essilor of America, Dr. Howard Purcell, O.D., F.A.A.O., works very closely with Essilor’s network of optometrists and optometry schools, training doctors to take on and prepare for the future of the vision care industry. He has extensive experience working alongside his father as a second-generation optometrist in Florida for 10 years, and served as a clinical investigator and consultant to the contact lens industry. Dr. Purcell is a Diplomate in the Cornea and Contact Lens Section of the American Academy of Optometry and a Distinguished Practitioner in the National Academies of Practice. Dr. Purcell is known for his energetic and enthusiastic style, making him a popular lecturer internationally. He has traveled to six continents and most of the schools and colleges of optometry in North America, and attended all of the major eyecare meetings in North America presenting and discussing issues of interest to practitioners and students, primarily around preparing for The Practice of the Future. In addition, he has spoken with national media outlets like Anderson Live hosted by Anderson Cooper, FoxNews.com and Wake up with Al to focus consumer attention on topics like UV and blue light protection.

9 COMMENTS

  1. I haven’t had new glasses for probably close to 10 years. I had a exam about 1 1/2 years ago. They were paid for through the Lyons Club. They do not work. I went back and had another exam and it was barely any different. I have United Healthcare for supplemental insurance and Medicare. UHC pays for exam but small portion of glasses. My prescription is trifocals and the pair I’m wearing now we’re about 400 with everything. I am on a smartphone and it is really hard to read. When I drive it is blurry and after I have been reading or on phone. I can’t afford another pair as I’m on disability and never make ends meet. Any suggestions on getting new glasses. I don’t have credit cards to charge and not very good credit to get a loan. Thank you.

  2. If my brother never got his eyes checked when he did (just a few months ago), and continued his habitual pattern of being on the computer 12+ hours a day mostly work and some gaming and occasionally sleeping with contacts on, he literally would’ve been blind not even a month later. After being told so many times to get his routine eye checkup, (generally once a year yet it had only been two years since his last checkup) the optomotrist said there was a 90% chance he could’ve gone blind within the next three weeks if he hadn’t gotten his treatment for his eye infection which was caused by simply being in front of a computer too often, always on his phone, and wearing his contacts more than he should. When you think about it, his habits are not all that all uncommon in the current year of 2016 where everything is becoming digital. Everyone is always on their phones/computers as often as they can be whether it’s for work or pleasure. It’s becoming so common we don’t think about how it can affect our visual health. This articles a good reminder that negligence to have routine checkups might be more detrimental to your health than you might have thought, well at least for me.

  3. I thought it was really interesting how the article mentions that having regular eye exams is important, especially if you have diabetes or high blood pressure. My good friend has diabetes, but I think he has good eyesight still. What kind of preventative measures would an eye doctor recommend for someone like him to keep his eyes in good health?

  4. Howard, it’s good to know that I should get an eye exam annually. I’ve recently been noticing that my vision has started to blur. I definitely think that I should look for an eye doctor that could give me some personal treatment options that could help to clear up everything.

  5. I did not know that an eye doctor can use your medical eye history to see if you might be prone to future eye disease. Getting checked every year would be helpful to catch eye problems before they get worse. My parents both wear glasses, so I think I will start getting them checked just in case.

  6. I didn’t know that having diabetes puts you at higher risk for developing eye problems. This is good to know since a friend of mine was just diagnosed with diabetes, but I don’t think he knows that diabetes could negativity impact his vision. I’ll be sure to see if he knows that getting yearly eye exams are more important than ever for him now.

  7. I used to think you didn’t need to see an optometrist unless you already had eye issues, and as a child, my parents never had my eyes looked at. Thanks for your point about how you can find signs of chronic diseases just by having an eye exam, that changes my view point. It seems to me like leaving an unknown issue untreated would eventually cause a more severe problem. If anyone is in a position where they haven’t had an eye exam recently I think they should find a good doctor.

LEAVE A REPLY


All comments are moderated. Please allow at least 1-2 days for it to display.