Regular eye exams are key to maintaining your vision health. Approximately 11 million Americans over age 12 need vision correction. Going to the eye doctor – either an optometrist or an ophthalmologist – can help detect and correct vision problems early, including diagnosing eye diseases and keeping your eye health at its best.
Common Eye Disorders and Diseases
Eye diseases are common and often develop with no symptoms. Age-related eye diseases are the most common cause of blindness and low vision in the U.S. Common eye disorders and diseases include:
- Refractive errors, which include near-sightedness, farsightedness, astigmatisms, and the inability to focus up close
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects an estimated 1.8 million Americans aged 40 years and older. AMD damages the central part of the retina, which allows the eye to see objects clearly, and is vital for everyday tasks like reading and driving.
- Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss in the U.S. The lens of the eye becomes clouded, but cataracts can be treated.
- Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a complication of diabetes and is the leading cause of blindness in adults in the U.S. DR typically affects both eyes and damages the blood vessels of the retina over time through four stages: mild nonproliferative retinopathy, moderate nonproliferative retinopathy, severe nonproliferative retinopathy, and proliferative retinopathy.
- Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that can damage the eye’s optic nerve and result in vision loss or blindness. There are different types of glaucoma, but the two most common categories are open-angle and closed-angle.
- Amblyopia, also called lazy eye, results when the brain and eyes don’t work together properly. It’s the most common cause of vision loss in children, but this condition is also treatable.
- Strabismus is caused by a lack of coordination between the eyes and results in the eyes becoming unable to focus on a single point simultaneously. One or both eyes may turn in or out. This affects depth perception and can cause permanent vision loss in one eye (a type of amblyopia).
What is Included in an Eye Exam?
An eye doctor can often find issues before you even notice anything may be wrong. Exams are simple and painless.
During a standard eye exam, the eye doctor will:
- Inquire if you are having any vision or eye problems, and ask further questions about what you describe.
- Ask you questions about your personal and family health history, including any medications you use.
- Check your visual acuity using a Snellen chart. You’ll be asked to read, from a distance, a chart with random letters that get smaller on each line. As you read, your eye doctor places various lenses in front of your eyes to perform a refraction test, which will confirm whether you need eyeglasses.
- Assess your depth perception, peripheral eyesight, and how your pupils respond to light.
- Test your eye movement and focus.
- Check for glaucoma, which is found by testing the pressure in your eye.
- Examine your overall eye health.
A more comprehensive eye exam includes a dilated eye exam. This type of eye exam is recommended for patients with diabetes or high blood pressure. The eye doctor will dilate, or widen, the pupils of the eyes using special eye drops. This helps your eye doctor see inside your eye to check for eye diseases.
How Often Should You Get an Exam?
Eye exams are important for everyone. Schedule regular eye exams at least every one to two years, depending on your risk factors. Children between the ages of three and five should have a vision screening at least once to help detect possible vision problems.
People with diabetes should have a comprehensive eye exam annually that includes pupil dilation. Individuals with a higher risk for glaucoma typically should also have a dilated eye exam every one to two years. Individuals with a higher risk include those who:
- Are over age 60
- Are African American and over age 40
- Have a family history of glaucoma
Talk to your eye doctor and schedule an appointment right away if you experience any issues, like decreased or double vision, eye pain, floaters, halos around lights, or flashes of light.
Keep an eye on your vision health and schedule your eye exam today.