Routine eye exams are an important part of maintaining overall health. As with annual physical or dental exams, it is extremely important to have you your eyes examined regularly, regardless of how keen your eyesight is, scheduling regular eye exams according to the American Association of Ophthalmology recommendations, is a great way to stay on top of your overall health.
Adults should have an eye exam every 1-2 years, depending on any existing vision problems, eye conditions or being diagnosed with significant risk factors, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, thyroid disease or previous eye injuries or family history. The doctor will recommend a frequency for routine follow-up exams based on the patient’s medical history, for instance, a diabetic person needs a dilated eye exam every year, contact lenses wearers need exams every year, to look for changes that might affect lens fit and eye health.
Regular eye exams will also ensure that glasses prescriptions or contact lenses are current, and offer an opportunity for checking early signs of diseases. Adults older than 60 years, should have an eye exam each year, as age-related eye problems are more common.
It may be important to see a doctor more frequently in case of experiencing any of the following:
Blurry vision or loss of vision. If it’s more difficult to see things near and/or far away and perform basic tasks.
Flashing light in the eye.
Eye floaters, or small spots that appear in vision.
Eye exams aren’t important just for the sake of vision, routine eye exams can help identify a variety of problems ranging from cognitive decline to diabetes. Since the eye is an extension of the brain and the only part of the body where blood vessels and tissue are visible, it allows an eye doctor to detect other types of warning signs or the early stages of different health problems, such as diabetes signs as bleeding in the eye or swelling in parts of the retina.
Besides diabetes, there are several other health problems that may be detected during an eye exam which includes brain tumors as a brain tumor may cause swelling of the optic nerve and rheumatoid arthritis, as one sign of rheumatoid arthritis or other autoimmune disorders may be dry eyes, which can be detected during a routine eye exam.
Skin cancer on the eyelid is another health risk as the eyelid is very sensitive to ultraviolet rays and may be one of the first places affected by different types of skin cancers. Thus, any spots or affected areas may be detected before skin cancer can spread to other parts of the body.
In addition, high blood pressure, where blood vessels in the back of the eye may appear bent or leaking, narrowing of the vessels in the retina, swelling of the optic nerve, and hypertensive retinopathy in its earliest stages can be looked for during the exam.
Some progressive eye diseases are not immediately apparent and should be tested for during regular eye examinations. These include:
Glaucoma; a chronic progressive eye disease, it has no early symptoms or pain in the initial stages. Glaucoma is the buildup of pressure within the eye which causes damage to the optic nerve and can lead to a loss of peripheral vision or a complete loss of vision.
Macular degeneration; an eye condition that causes damage to the eye retina.
Cataracts; are the most common cause of blindness in the world. They occur when the lens of the eye becomes less flexible with age. Blurred or foggy vision and sensitivity to light are common symptoms. Cataracts are easily corrected with outpatient surgery.
Vision changes can have a profound effect on a person’s day-to-day life. Early treatments can help to slow or stop vision loss and regular eye exams can help ensure a lifetime of clear sight.