Here’s why you should see an eye doctor even if you have perfect vision.
Think you can skip getting an eye exam as long as you can see the TV or your phone without squinting? Think again.
Going for eye exams on a regular basis is an important part of maintaining your overall health, especially as you age. That’s because these exams do more than just check how well you can see. They help detect eye conditions that may cause vision loss and blindness—and may even uncover signs of health conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes. But of the estimated 93 million U.S. adults at high risk for vision loss, only half visited an eye doctor in the past 12 months.
What can be checked during an eye exam?
During a dilated eye exam, which is different than a basic vision screening, the doctor puts drops in your eye so they can more easily see what’s going on inside your eyes. This helps them detect any abnormalities. They also test for visual acuity (sharpness), depth perception, eye alignment and eye movement.
Some diseases an eye doctor can detect during a dilated eye exam include:
- Cataracts: This is a clouding of the lens of the eye that can cause blurry vision.
- Diabetic retinopathy: This complication of diabetes can damage the blood vessels in the retina, leading to permanent vision loss.
- Glaucoma: This occurs when the optic nerve (the nerve that connects the eye to the brain) is damaged, usually due to too much pressure in the eye.
- Age-related macular degeneration: This condition results from aging of a part of the retina that is responsible for your central vision, leading to vision loss.
- Other health conditions: An eye doctor may also be able to detect general health conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, based on what is seen during an eye exam.
How often should I get an eye exam?
Recommendations for eye exams vary based on age and risks for health conditions affecting the eye. Some doctors recommend the following schedule for adults with no vision problems or health conditions that might affect eye health: every 5 years for adults ages 20-39, every 2-4 years for adults ages 40-54 and every 1-3 years for adults ages 55-64. Adults age 65 and over should have an annual dilated eye exam.
You may need eye exams more often if any of the following are true:
- You wear glasses or contact lenses
- You have a family history of eye disease or loss of vision
- You have a chronic disease that puts you at greater risk of eye disease, such as diabetes
- You take medications that may cause side effects to your eyes
When should I see an eye doctor right away?
If you’re experiencing any type of vision problem, don’t wait for a routine exam. Make an appointment right away if you’re experiencing any of the following:
- Eye pain
- Draining or redness of the eye
- Decreased vision
- Double vision
- Floaters (tiny specks that appear to float before your eyes)
- Halos (circles that appear when you look at lights)
- Flashes of light
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Date Last Reviewed: October 11, 2021
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD