Many people think of going to the eye doctor as “kids stuff”. That’s particularly true for people who’ve had perfect vision their whole lives. If you’re in this group, you may think that you don’t need routine eye exams. However, regardless of your vision, you need to see the eye doctor regularly.
Determining Your Risk Factor
Depending on your current risk factors, you may need a routine eye exam more often than someone else. Adults with no signs or risk factors for eye disease should receive a baseline comprehensive eye evaluation at age 40. Individuals without risk factors aged 40 to 54 should be examined by an ophthalmologist every 2 to 4 years. Individuals without risk factors aged 55 to 64 should be examined by an ophthalmologist every 1 to 3 years. Individuals without risk factors 65 years old or older should have an examination performed by an ophthalmologist every 1 to 2 years as the incidence of unrecognized ocular disease increases with age.
The frequency of ocular examinations in the presence of acute or chronic disease will vary widely with intervals ranging from hours to several months, depending on the risks involved, response to treatment, and potential for the disease to progress. Your eye doctor will let you know how often you should visit to keep track of these vision issues.
Any individual at higher risk for developing disease, based on ocular and medical history, family history, age, or race should have periodic examinations determined by the particular risks, even if no symptoms are present. An eye doctor can monitor your eye for changes in vision acuity, but perhaps even more importantly, they can screen you for a number of serious and vision-threatening eye issues. In other words, seeing the eye doctor regularly reduces your chances of suffering from any of the following issues.
Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness around the world. It’s not as common a threat in the developed world as in third world countries, but that’s only due to preemptive care. Glaucoma refers to intense pressure in your eyes, and if undetected, it can lead to blindness.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of early signs or symptoms, so the only way to protect yourself is to see an eye doctor regularly and get tested. This becomes more important as you age. Your risk for glaucoma increases substantially over the age of 60, or over 40 if you’re of African American descent.
At a routine exam, your eye doctor can also help you identify amblyopia. This issue occurs when your eyes aren’t aligned correctly or when one develops worse vision than the other. Often, you may not notice this issue on your own because it starts slowly. However, over time, your brain will start to correct the issue by shutting down the weaker eye. That can lead to permanent damage. Fortunately, if this issue is detected early, it’s easy to deal with. Your eye doctor usually recommends a patch over the stronger eye so that the weaker one can catch up.
If you have diabetes, your risk of contracting blindness can increase, and in particular, you may face diabetic retinopathy. This condition causes the vessels in your eye to leak, which can lead to vision loss. Again, this condition is nearly impossible to detect on your own until it’s too late, but an eye doctor can screen you for it during a routine appointment.
Eye exams can even help you detect issues that you may not think of as directly related to your eyes, such as diabetes. When the eye doctor looks into your eye, they can see what’s happening in the retina. If they see blood or other fluids seeping out of the vessels in the retina, they know that might be a sign of diabetes. Usually, that happens when the sugar has built up so much in the bloodstream that it starts to break down the capillaries in the retina.
High Blood Pressure
Your eye doctor can even detect the early signs of hypertension or high blood pressure by looking at your eyes. In this situation, the blood vessels in your eyes may show bends or tears. When your eye doctor sees symptoms like this, they can recommend that you follow up with a general physician or a specialist.