The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends regular eye exams not only to determine if there is a need for glasses or contact lenses, but also to screen for a number of diseases and conditions. It is important that these conditions be diagnosed and treated early because intervention can prevent some of the more drastic effects of disease and/or halt the progression, although it cannot prevent the disease itself.   Determining the need for a prescription to correct vision problems can help prevent stress headaches due to eyestrain and can help circumvent learning and behavior problems with children in school.


A regular eye exam does not occur as regularly as one might suspect. In fact barring any vision issues or problems that may arise, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends screening only once in your 20’s and twice in your 30’s.  However, once an individual reaches age 40 the screening schedule is increased to every 2 years until age 65 and then annually thereafter. These eye exams will include screening for Glaucoma, Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), Cataracts and Diabetic Retinopathy. 


Eye Exams vs. Vision Screening

It is important to make a serious distinction between an eye exam and a vision screening. Eye exams take place in an Ophthalmologists or Optometrists office and involve a series of tests on the eye itself to determine the physical health of the eye, in addition to testing for the visual performance of the eye.  Vision screenings can take place in a Primary Care Physician’s Office, the school nurse’s office, or an eyeglass retail facility.  These screenings are testing for vision clarity and eye muscle dexterity and sometimes include brief disease screenings.  If any issues relating to vision or eye health are detected during the screening, a follow-up exam by an eye doctor is recommended.


In addition to screening for eye disease, eye doctors can also detect other health issues in patients.  High blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and diabetes are all present symptoms that can be detected during an eye exam.  It is interesting to note that people often put off general health exams for persistent, low-level ailments, but are less likely to delay seeking medical help for issues with their eyesight. As a result, eye doctors are frequently the first to discover some of these potentially life-threatening issues.


At your eye exam, you will have approximately a dozen eye tests performed and perhaps several more if the doctor determines that further investigation is necessary. You should anticipate the exam taking about an hour. The majority of the tests are non-invasive and involve focusing on objects, staring through lenses, having bright lights shone into the eyes or just having your eyes closely observed.  However, several of the tests require slightly more interaction, which can occasionally cause some individuals anxiety. Understanding these tests, their necessity and what to expect can help to ease this trepidation.


When getting these exams done patients can expect to be tested for Glaucoma, Pachymetry, and Pupil Dilation.


These procedures involve very minor discomfort and their ability to detect serious problems far outweighs any squeamishness that individuals may have about eye exams. The test themselves are fairly brief but they could mean the difference between good vision and a lifetime of compromised vision.


Overall, the eye exam is a critical part of health maintenance and finding an eye doctor and following the exam schedule guidelines should be an integral part of everyone’s health care routine.





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