Regular eye and vision exams play an important role in preventative health care, even for people with “perfect” vision. There are many serious eye problems and diseases with no obvious signs or symptoms, and people may not aware that these problems exist until the damage is already done. Early diagnosis and treatment of eye and vision issues is essential in keeping the eyes healthy and preventing vision loss.
What goes on during an eye exam? A proper comprehensive eye exam is more than just checking for a prescription. During a comprehensive eye exam, the doctor will conduct a number of tests to determine status of vision and eye heath:
- Patient History: symptoms, health problems, medications taken, occupational/environmental concerns.
- Visual Acuity: how clearly each eye is seeing.
- Eye Pressure: to check for glaucoma and other eye diseases.
- Visual Field: assess your side vision to check for any problems with the nerve or visual pathway.
- Refraction : to check for your glasses prescription if you are nearsighted, far-sighted, have astigmatism, or have focusing problems.
- Eye focusing, Teaming, & Depth Perception: to assess how the eyes work together.
- Color Vision: to check for reduced color perception or blindness.
- Microscope evaluation of the eye: to check the health of the eye surface (cornea, conjunctiva), and the interior of the eye (iris, pupil, intraocular lens, optic nerve, and a portion of the retina.
- Dilation & Retinal Photography: to assess the health of the retina.
- Additional testing as needed: contact lens services, red eye evaluation, dry eye, etc..
Many people are under the misconception that if they can “see fine”, they do not need an eye exam. This could not be further from the truth. Several years ago, a young mom with “perfect vision” brought her daughter in for her first exam because she couldn’t see the board in class. Her daughter was apprehensive, so the mother decided to have an eye exam first and let her daughter watch (to calm her fears and show her nothing ‘scary’ would happen). During that exam, we found a suspicious looking spot in the mother’s eye and referred her to a specialist. It turned out, the mother had never had an eye exam before (since she always had “perfect vision”), and the “suspicious looking spot” was actually a slow-growing malignant tumor – which thankfully, the surgeon was able to remove since it was detected early! Although this scenario does not happen every day in my office, it happens often enough that I worry about those individuals who never have their eyes checked.
Comprehensive eye examinations are recommended once a year for individuals who wear glasses/contacts or have risk factors (e.g. diabetes, high blood pressure, use of certain medications, eye disease, family history of eye disease, crossed eyes, or other health conditions/concerns). For asymptomatic individuals (people with “perfect vision”), eye exams are recommended at the following intervals:
- Birth to 24 months: At 6 months of age
- 2 to 5 years: At 3 years of age
- 6 to 18 years (school-aged children): Annually
- 18 to 59 years: Every two years
- 60 and older: Annually
It is especially important that school-aged children are seen for comprehensive eye exams on an annual basis (1st grade through 12th grade). During these years, children’s bodies are growing and changing, and large changes in vision can occur rapidly. Although some schools perform quick “vision screenings” to help identify children who have undetected vision problems – many children still fall through the cracks and may “pass” the screening, delaying further examination and treatment.
If you can’t remember the last time you had your eyes checked, it’s time to call your doctor and schedule an appointment!
-Dr. Mika Fu