As we begin a new year in the St. Croix Valley, most of our population recognizes the importance of going to a Primary Care Physician for recommended health checkups and getting teeth routinely cleaned by a Dentist to maintain good oral hygiene. Seeing your eye Doctor periodically is also an important health maintenance measure to maintain or improve your vision. Eye exams are important at every life stage.
Improving the sharpness of your vision is important – Seeing your best contributes to optimizing one’s education, productivity, safety, and quality of life. More than 150 million Americans benefit from vision correction. But sharpening your vision with glasses is just one of many reasons to get your eyes examined. Regular eye exams are also an important part of finding eye diseases early and preserving your vision for years to come.
Eye diseases are common and can go unnoticed for a long time – some have no symptoms until they become advanced, when they are much more difficult to treat. A comprehensive dilated eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist is necessary to find eye diseases at earlier stages when treatment to prevent vision loss is most effective.
During a comprehensive eye exam the function of your eyes are tested, including acuity (sharpness), peripheral vision, depth perception, eye alignment, eye movement, and eye pressure. The anatomy of your eyes (external and internal) is also examined, and the internal exam is facilitated by the use of dilating eye drops which temporarily make your pupils larger. Your eye doctor may identify medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and even very serious conditions such as brain tumors on a routine eye exam.
Early identification and treatment is important to prevent some common eye diseases from causing permanent vision loss or blindness. Some of the more common eye conditions include:
–Amblyopia – reduced vision in children which can be lifelong if untreated, usually due to strabismus (eye misalignment) or asymmetric glasses prescription in each eye.
–Cataracts (clouding of the lens), most commonly age-related, is the leading cause of vision loss in the United States.
–Diabetic Retinopathy – Damage to blood vessels inside the eye, is the leading cause of blindness in American Adults.
–Glaucoma – A group of diseases that damages the nerve connecting the eye to the brain, usually impacting peripheral vision.
–Age-related Macular Degeneration – Gradual breakdown of critical cells that serve your central vision.
How often should eyes be examined ?
Children’s eyes should be checked regularly by an eye doctor or primary care provider. Vision screening on all children (usually done at school or at the primary care provider’s office) should be done at least once between age 3 and 5 years to detect amblyopia or risk factors for the disease. The majority of children should have several vision screenings during childhood.
It is recommended that children have a comprehensive dilated eye exam if they 1) fail a vision screening, 2) are unable to be tested reliably at a screening exam, 3) have a vision complaint or exhibit abnormal visual behavior, or 4) are at risk for the development of eye problems due to family history or they have other medical conditions known to be associated with eye problems. For example, children and adults with diabetes should have a dilated eye exam every year.
For patients without any medical eye concerns or vision complaints, Associated Eye Care recommends the following regular exam intervals:
Of course, if an individual has new visual concerns such as decreased vision, eye pain, double vision, flashes/floaters, don’t wait for your next appointment – visit your eye doctor as soon as possible.
As the population ages in the United States, the number of blind and visually impaired people is estimated to double by 2030 and triple by 2050. Encouraging your friends and family to take care of their vision health as part of their overall health and wellness plan could significantly reduce these estimates. Regular eye exams can have a life-changing impact on preserving vision and increasing quality of life.