Regardless of your age or physical health, it's important to have regular eye exams. Half of all blindnesses can be prevented. Having an annual eye exam is crucial in protecting your eyesight. These examinations allow your doctor to detect changes in vision so that alterations in glasses or contact lens prescriptions may be made to optimize how you see the world. In addition, an ocular health examination is performed to screen for diseases of the eye. Many eye diseases, if detected early, can be treated successfully without total vision loss. Eye exams can uncover both eye and systemic (entire body) problems; by identifying potential risks early, preventative care can be taken to reduce vision loss.
During a complete eye exam, your Doctor of Optometry will not only determine the best options in prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses for good vision, but will also examine your eyes to assess how your eyes work together and evaluate the blood vessels and nerves at the back of the eye as an indicator of your overall health.
A comprehensive eye exam includes:
- Visual acuity – reading the eye chart at distance and at near to determine your visual capability
- Binocular vision testing – to test and evaluate how well your two eyes work independently and together by evaluating the muscles and focusing system.
- Visual field testing – to test how well you see in your periphery and screen for diseases that could impact side vision like glaucoma, diabetes, and stroke.
- Eye health assessment – look at the structures at the front and back of the eye to evaluate the health of the eye as well as your general health including diabetes and high blood pressure.
An eye examination should be performed every 1-2 years and may be more frequent if you have specific diseases that need to be followed.
Some experts estimate that approximately 5% to 10% of pre-schoolers and 25% of school-aged children have vision problems and need vision correction. The Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO) recommends that all children should have their eyes examined at 6 months of age, at age 3 and again annually after the start of school. Children with existing vision problems or other risk factors should have their eyes examined more frequently. Common risk factors for vision problems include:
- premature birth
- developmental delays
- turned or crossed eyes
- family history of eye disease
- history of eye injury
- other physical illness or disease
80% of learning is through vision and many children with learning disabilities have an undiagnosed vision problem. . Read more about Pediatric Eye Exams.
Adults. The OAO also recommends an annual eye exam for any adult who wears eyeglasses or contacts. If you don't normally need vision correction, you still need an eye exam every two years up to the age of 40, depending on your rate of visual change and overall health. Doctors often recommend more frequent examinations for adults with diabetes, high blood pressure and other disorders, because many diseases can have an impact on vision and eye health.
If you are over 40, it's a good idea to have your eyes examined regularly to check for common age-related eye problems such as presbyopia (a need for a reading correction), cataracts and macular degeneration. Read more about Vision After 40.
Because the risk of eye disease continues to increase with advancing age, everyone over the age of 60 should be examined annually. Read more about Vision After 60.