Many people think they don’t need to get their eyes examined until they get older or suffer from symptoms. But this can be a dangerous way of thinking.
To keep your eyes healthy, it is essential to get regular eye exams starting at a young age.
What is an Eye Exam?
You can think of an eye exam as a checkup for your eyes. During an eye exam, your eye doctor will examine your entire visual system, update your prescription and check for any signs of common eye diseases.
What Does an Eye Exam Include?
During an eye exam, your doctor will do the following:
- Consult your medical history and records to assess your current and future eye health
- Evaluate your current visual needs
- Assess your complete optical system
- Test your eyes for diseases such as glaucoma, retinal detachment and diabetic retinopathy
- At the end of your exam, your eye doctor will discuss your eye health concerns. They will discuss treatment options with you as well.
Why are Eye Exams Important?
Eye exams are critical because early detection of vision-threatening eye diseases is essential to slowing down their progression. Eye exams can catch diseases early and prevent future vision loss.
During an eye examination, your eye doctor performs multiple tests to spot initial signs of these diseases and help you treat them before they get worse.
Signs & Symptoms of Vision Problems
If you experience any of the following symptoms, you may be suffering from vision problems.
- Eye pain in or around the eye
- Changes in your vision, including blurred vision or double vision
- Seeing flashes of light or halos around lights
- Unusual sensitivity to light or glare
- Eye redness
- Changes in the color of the eye
- Itching, burning, or a heavy discharge in the eyes
When To See A Doctor
You should speak to your eye doctor if any of the above symptoms are severe or don’t go away on their own after a few days. Book an appointment if you have any concerns about your eye health, regardless of when you last had an exam.
How Often Should You See Your Eye Doctor?
How often you should see your eye doctor depends on your age, overall health and risk of developing common eye disorders and diseases. The general guideline by age for how often you should see your eye doctor is as follows:
Infants, Toddlers & Preschoolers
A child’s first eye examination should occur before they are 3. But, of course, if your child is suffering from any vision symptoms, you should get them in to see their eye doctor at any age.
School-aged Children & Adolescents
Starting at age 5 or 6, children should begin to see their eye doctor regularly. If a child has good vision and doesn’t suffer from any eye conditions, they should see their eye doctor every 2 years.
If a child needs to wear glasses or contact lenses or suffers from any eye conditions, they should see their eye doctor annually or as recommended.
If you are healthy and have no signs or symptoms of vision problems, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends having an eye exam annually.
Around age 40, you should receive a complete eye exam. A complete eye exam goes beyond your typical eye exam and is vital to do at this age when vision changes and eye diseases are more likely to start. Based on the results of this exam, your eye doctor will recommend how often you should schedule future eye exams.
If any of the following apply to you, your eye doctor will recommend that you have your eyes checked more often:
- You wear glasses or contact lenses and need your prescription updated
- You have a history of eye disease or vision issues in your family
- You have other health issues that increase your risk of eye disease, such as diabetes
- Take certain medications, like antihistamines or antidepressants that have side effects that affect your eyes
Caring for Your Eyes In Between Appointments
Caring for your eyes is important at every age. Here is everything you need to know about steps you can take between eye exams to ensure your eyes stay healthy:
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Get regular exercise
- Wear sunglasses
- Wear protective eyewear
- Avoid smoking
- Know your family medical history
- Know your other risk factors
- Practice good contact hygiene
- Limit screen time
Booking an Eye Exam
Booking an eye exam is the only way to ensure your eyes stay healthy for years to come. Your eye doctor will go over any questions or concerns you may have and, if needed, will discuss appropriate treatment plans with you.