Annual Eye Exams
Having your vision checked is an important part of staying healthy. Regular eye exams not only help to keep your vision clear and sharp but can also indicate other health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
Knowing what an eye exam should cover and when to have your vision checked is an important first step to maintaining healthy eyesight. Regular vision checks from The University of Kansas Health System can help ensure that your sight lasts a lifetime.
What is an annual eye exam?
Your eyes are sensitive instruments that require regular examinations to ensure they are functioning at peak condition. Annual eye exams are the main tool your eye doctor uses to ensure the health and integrity of your vision.
Your doctor might use several tests to check your vision and the appearance and function of all parts of your eyes.
Who should have an annual eye exam?
During a routine eye exam, an eye doctor reviews your medical history and completes a series of tests to determine the health of your eyes. Eye examinations should take place periodically as follows:
- Before age 3: All children should have their eyes checked before age 3. If there is a family history of childhood vision problems, or if the child has a wandering, crossed or other eye problem, his or her eyes should be checked earlier.
- Ages 3-20: Every 1-2 years, or as recommended.
- Ages 20-40: Every 1-2 years, unless you experience any problems such as vision change, pain, flashes of light, new floaters or tearing or if you sustain an eye injury.
- Ages 40-64: Have a baseline eye exam at 40, unless you're having symptoms or have risk factors for eye disease. If you have symptoms or a risk factor, such as high blood pressure, diabetes or a family history of eye disease, consult your ophthalmologist or optometrist to discuss how often you should be examined.
- Age 65+: Every 1-2 years.
People who suffer from some medical conditions that can affect eyesight should receive regular and thorough eye exams. Those people who should pay more careful attention to their eye health include:
What does an eye exam diagnose?
An eye exam can diagnose many concerns related to eye health. Eye exams are most often focused on any vision problems you are experiencing, such as nearsightedness or farsightedness, blurry vision or other issues. At the eye exam, your doctor may also look for signs of congenital diseases or other diseases of the eye, including glaucoma, cataracts or macular degeneration.
What are the benefits and risks of an eye exam?
The benefit to scheduling annual eye exams is that serious eye conditions can be caught and treated promptly. In some cases, this could save your vision. The risks of not proactively protecting your eye health with regular exams include irreversible damage to your eye health, including blindness.
Before your eye exam
There is very little preparation needed before your exam appointment. Write down any problems you are experiencing with your eyes. If you wear contacts and/or glasses, you should wear them to the appointment. If possible, avoid excessive screen time or other activities that would strain your eyes before your visit. It's also a good idea to talk with your parents and grandparents about any eye problems they have experienced so you have that information available to share with the doctor.
What to expect during your eye exam
During an eye exam, your eye doctor reviews your medical history and completes a series of tests to determine the health of your eyes. The information from an eye exam may lead to medical procedures or prescriptions.
The tests and measurements used in a complete eye exam usually focus on 3 aspects:
- The overall health of your eyes
- Your eye pressure
- Your visual acuity, or how clearly you can see
The tests performed on your eyes isolate the functioning of specific aspects of your vision and include an examination of your pupils, side vision, eye movement, eye pressure, your retina and optic nerve and the front of your eye.
Recovery and results for an eye exam
You should be able to continue with your day's activities right after your eye exam. If you are having dilation during your exam, your eyes will be sensitive for some amount of time after your appointment. In most cases, wearing sunglasses outside will minimize this effect.
Some results from an eye exam are available immediately, such as any prescription you may need for corrective lenses or contacts. If the doctor sees signs of a more complex eye condition, you may need to have further testing to determine its presence and severity.