People who enjoy excellent vision often wonder whether they really need to schedule an eye exam. But an eye exam is just as much about checking the healthiness of your eyes as it is evaluating how well you can see.
Review three reasons why exams are important.
1. Eye diseases – According to the National Library of Medicine, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and American Academy of Ophthalmology, Americans of all ages are at risk for vision issues:
- 6.8% of kids under age 18 have a known vision problem; 3% are blind or visually impaired
- 60-70% of kids who squint have a lazy eye
- 90% of blindness due to diabetes is preventable
- 2.7 million older adults have glaucoma
- 7.7 million have diabetic retinopathy
- 2.1 million have age-related macular degeneration
- 24.4 million have cataracts
Some diseases do not give early warning signs. By the time people notice a difference in their vision, the disease may be in an advanced stage. However, your eye doctor can detect signs of these diseases during a comprehensive exam.
2. Vision problems – Changes in your eyes can affect your sight:
- Nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism – These refractive errors can be corrected with prescription eyeglasses, contacts or laser surgery.
- Amblyopia – Looking in a mirror, your eyes may look normal, but during a vision exam the doctor may detect amblyopia, a condition where one or both eyes are misaligned or one eye needs higher correction than the other.
- Focusing – Children and adults who struggle to focus their eyes can experience problems seeing and reading.
- Teaming – For proper vision, both eyes must work together. If they don’t, people may experience headache and eyestrain, and struggle to read correctly.
- Strabismus – Described as crossed or turned eyes, strabismus can affect depth perception. If not corrected, amblyopia may develop.
3. Health concerns – In addition to looking for eye diseases, the eye doctor may detect early signs of other medical problems that require attention. These include diabetes, high blood pressure, some cancers and high cholesterol.
Schedule regular eye exams
Children need regular eye exams to make sure their eyes develop correctly and catch vision problems that may affect their ability to read and learn in school. The American Optometric Association recommends scheduling eye exams at 6 months, age 3 and before starting school. Set up additional exams as recommended by your eye doctor.
Adults should have a comprehensive eye exam every two years between ages 18 and 60, and an annual exam starting at age 61.
Vision insurance can help defray costs for eye exams and prescription eyewear.