When should we have an eye exam? Should we have an eye exam only if we have a vision problem? Should we see the optometrist or ophthalmologist only when we need to update our glasses or contact lenses? Ask your friends or colleagues at work who don’t wear glasses or contact lenses when they last had an eye exam and you will learn that most of them have not had an eye exam for many years. Some of them have not had one at all. There seems to be a notion that if you can see well enough, and you don’t have a vision problem, then why have an eye exam?
We see our dentist every 6 months and our primary care physician every year. What about our eyes? Our eyes are our most precious gift. It is our most precious of all our senses. It is the window to our world. Whatever we learn and perceive is through our eyes. Children at school learn over 80% through their eyes. Yet, most of us only show up at our eye doctor’s office if we have a vision problem. Sadly enough, we will learn that there are some blinding disorders such as glaucoma that do not affect vision or have any symptoms in its early stages, and they are usually detected at an eye exam. In most cases, the patient comes in to update his or her glasses or contact lenses and the doctor discovers this potentially blinding disease during the eye exam. I have seen this very scenario many times at my practice.
So, back to my question. When should we have an eye exam? If you have a vision problem and you wear glasses or contact lenses, you should have an eye exam once a year. If you don’t have a vision problem, you should also have an eye exam once a year because an eye exam consists of 2 components:
2 components of an eye exam:
- A Vision Exam to verify good vision and to ensure the 2 eyes are working and tracking equally well together. Any vision errors such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and close-up reading difficulties can be corrected with glasses, contact lenses or refractive surgery.
- An Eye health Exam to ensure the eyes are healthy and free from any eye diseases such as dry-eyes, glaucoma, keratoconus, cataracts, tumors, retinal tears or retinal detachments, blood vessel diseases such as uncontrolled diabetes or hypertension etc., eye turns or squints, lazy-eye (amblyopia) etc.
Please check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOVwmGvQI5k&feature=share
It is important to realize that some of these disorders do not affect vision and may not have any symptoms and they are usually detected at an eye-exam. If detected, early treatment can have the best outcomes. It is also vital that children at age 3 and 5 have eye exams before going to school to detect eye-turns, lazy-eye and significant vision errors in one or both eyes. These disorders can significantly affect their learning in school and early treatment provide the best outcomes. Children are usually not aware they have a vision problem. If they don’t see well, they believe that is how everyone else sees.
So now that you have asked your friends and colleagues when they last had their eye exam, you know what to advise them. Please share this important information that can possibly save their eyes.
Meyer Izaac, O.D.