August is National Eye Exam Month, and I know what you might be thinking: gee… thrilling! In terms of excitement, it’s not exactly National Frisbee Day or National Skydiving Week, but think for a moment about what you need to participate in either of those. Give up? It’s healthy eyes!
Your eyes do so many things for you, and August is a great time to return the favor. If you haven’t recently received an eye exam and are unsure of how beneficial it might be for you or members of your family, then keep reading.
It might surprise you to learn how little effort it takes to schedule a comprehensive eye exam. It’s recommended that most children and adults receive just one every few years, but the benefits can be drastic—even beyond simply catching a vision issue before it fully develops.
In a recent study, a whopping 65% of patients who presented signs of high cholesterol had their symptoms first detected by their eye doctor.
Read on to find out more about the importance of eye exams, what to expect in an exam, and whether you fall into a category of people at higher risk for vision and vision-related health issues.
The Importance of Eye Exams
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), “diabetes, high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases, sexually transmitted diseases and cancers” are just some of the issues that can be detected during a comprehensive eye exam. Our eyes offer a view of blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue that doctors can otherwise only access through invasive surgery. These structures can all hint at signs of issues affecting the rest of the body. (AAO)
Of course, an eye exam is more likely to catch vision-related issues, some of which, such as primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), don’t present obvious symptoms until the risk of vision loss is extreme. (AAO)
Our eyes and the visual systems in our brains develop rapidly in the first years of life, thus, children and infants are in special need of exams. These early years are a key time to catch and correct certain issues. As AAO states, if the eyes can’t send clear images to the brain, a child’s “vision may become limited in ways that cannot be corrected later in life.” These limitations can go on to affect a child’s ability to socialize, succeed in sports and hobbies, and perform in school. (AAO)
Does EVERYONE need an eye exam?
Regular eye exams are essential for everyone to maintain healthy vision as they age. It’s recommended that you follow the advice of your eye doctor regarding frequency of exams.
People across age groups and those with certain health issues face different risks related to their vision. The following groups face special risks:
As mentioned above, children need special attention paid to their developing vision. It is recommended that a child receive four eye exams early in life:
- At birth
- At around 6 months
- At around 3 years
- When entering school (around 5 or 6)
Read more about the importance of eye exams for children.
Adults at ages 40 and 65
For many adults, 40 is an important age for eye health. AAO recommends a baseline eye health exam around this age; subsequent exams should increase in frequency. (AAO)
Presbyopia (the natural degradation of near focusing ability) usually presents around age 40. The decrease in hormones, especially for women experiencing menopause, puts people at a greater risk for dry eye disease as they age. This risk increases for those who undergo surgical procedures such as cataract surgery or LASIK. (AAO)
Paragon BioTeck, Inc., offers a range of products that address symptoms of dry eye disease and eyelid hygiene. Ask your doctor if the punctal occlusion line of Comfortear® products are right for you.
Around the age of 65, people are especially at risk for glaucoma and other issues. After 65, your eye doctor might recommend more frequent exams. (Prevent Blindness America)
People with special health risks or signs of vision impairment
People with diabetes, a family history of vision problems, those who have suffered eye injuries or have had eye surgery, and anyone experiencing specific vision problems or recent changes to their vision might need to adhere to a different regimen of eye exams. Additionally, members of certain minority groups may be at risk for glaucoma at an earlier age. For more information, consult Prevent Blindness America.
When these groups overlap—for instance, when children have a family history of eye disease—then the risk increases.
It’s not just the old, the young, or the injured that benefit from eye exams. The earlier you begin exams and the more often you have them, the better. The best thing to do is to consult an eye doctor and begin your treatment.
I made an appointment. Now what?
If you’re like most people, you don’t love the idea of medical exams. Fortunately, eye exams are a relatively fast and comfortable procedure, generally taking between 45 and 90 minutes. (AAO)
In order to get the most out of your exam experience, some preparation might be necessary. Here are the answers to some common questions:
What should I expect?
It’s important to know what will occur in an eye exam, not only to allay fear about the process, but also to ensure that you are getting all the necessary tests. Based on who performs the exam and where you get it done, there might be different components included. Consult your eye doctor to make sure you receive the right exam for your needs.
If you’re unsure what your exam should cover, All About Vision recommends that a comprehensive eye exam include, at a minimum, the following components: (All About Vision)
- Analysis of the health history of you and your family
- Evaluation of sight using an eye chart
- Tests to detect any focusing problems
- Testing of near vision
- Evaluation of the ability of your eyes to work together
- A test of eye pressure and examination of the optic nerve
- A test that examines the interior of the eye
How should I prepare?
BEFORE THE EXAM…
- Find out what is included in the exam (check!)
- Find out the cost of the exam and whether your insurance will cover all or part of it
- Find out if there are vision problems or related diseases in your family history
- Try to remember the dates, procedures, and hospitals where you’ve had eye surgery or been treated for eye injuries
WHAT TO BRING… (All About Vision)
- A list of prescription or over-the-counter drugs you’re taking or took regularly in the past
- Your current glasses and/or contact lenses and their prescription
- A pair of sunglasses if you’re having your eyes dilated as they’ll be sensitive to light afterwards
- Insurance cards/information
- If the exam is for your child, you might want to bring snacks, toys, and anything else to keep them happy and calm
What about after the exam?
If you’ve had your eyes dilated, you could experience blurred vision and sensitivity to light for up to several hours after the exam. The duration and intensity of the effects vary for different people, so your doctor won’t be able to give you an exact time frame. If you’ll be undergoing eye dilation, it’s a good idea to arrange for a ride home after your exam. (AAO)
People’s eyes react differently to dilation based on their color: Lighter eyes (green, blue, and hazel) dilate faster than dark brown eyes.
Depending on what your eye doctor finds during the exam, he or she will make the appropriate recommendations for treatment, which may include a referral to a separate doctor to address specific issues. Your eye doctor can also recommend when you might need your next eye exam. Don’t be afraid to ask all the questions you want before and after the exam!
Time to schedule your exam
Now that you know how important eye exams are for people in all phases of life, how to prepare for one, and what to expect, what are you waiting for? Action now can save you time, money, and, most importantly, eye and overall health in the future.
- “Why Are Eye Exams Important?” All About Vision. 2016.
- “Your Eyes Could Be the Windows to Your Health.” American Academy of Ophthalmology. 2014.
- “Get Screened at 40.” American Academy of Ophthalmology. 2014.
- “Eye Screening for Children.” American Academy of Ophthalmology. 2014.
- “Eyes Over 40: Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers, Presbyopia and Vision Changes.” All About Vision. 2016.
- “What’s Your Risk of a Vision Problem?” Prevent Blindness. 2016.
- “Eye Exam Cost And When To Have An Eye Exam.” All About Vision. 2016.
- “Checklist for Your Eye Doctor Appointment.” Prevent Blindness. 2016.
- “What to Expect When Your Eyes Are Dilated.” American Academy of Ophthalmology. 2012.
- “Dry Eye Syndrome.” American Academy of Ophthalmology. 2014.