The Importance Of Regular Eye Exams
Checking Eye Health Is Essential
Why are routine eye exams important?
Many eye experts disagree on how often patients should have their eyes examined, but there is no disagreement that everyone should have a regular eye exam that includes both vision testing and an eye health evaluation.
What information is gathered in a comprehensive eye exam?
Vision testing and correcting decreased vision with lenses (eyeglasses or contact lenses) is a key component to a comprehensive eye exam. It is essential that an eye doctor determine what lens prescription will provide a patient with “perfect vision” (20/20 vision). If a patient’s best vision with lenses is reduced, additional testing is required to understand why.
In addition to determining the patient’s prescription (refractive error), a comprehensive eye exam should also determine how well both eyes work together.
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.
Testing to determine if the two eyes are working efficiently as a “team” is an essential part of an eye exam. When the eyes do not work well together, problems such as headaches and eyestrain can affect reading and other near tasks. These eye teaming problems can be troublesome for school age children where reading is important to academic achievement.
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.
Checking eye health is an essential part of a vision exam and can reveal important information including the following:
Knowing a patient’s internal eye pressure can determine if a patient is at risk for developing glaucoma. Glaucoma, a painless disease, can lead to loss of vision if not treated and is more prevalent in African Americans.
Examining the retinal blood vessels provides a “snapshot” of how diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure are affecting blood vessels throughout the body. This information, when conveyed to a patient’s medical doctor can be quite valuable in how the patient is medically managed.
How often should adults have their eyes examined?
- A yearly eye exam is a good idea, but some believe annual exams might be excessive. 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.
- Annual exams are absolutely necessary for patients with diabetes. If you have diabetic retinopathy (leaking retinal blood vessels in diabetics), more frequent exams may be necessary.
- An annual exam and contact lens evaluation is necessary for contact lens’ wearers. The annual exam will ensure there are no unwanted affects of contact lens wear and make sure the contact lens prescription is up-to-date.
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