Eye Exam – What It Is?
An eye exam involves assessment of your vision and overall eye health by a licensed physician. You might need to undergo several tests before your eye doctor gets conclusive about the condition of your eyes, diagnosing any issues and pinpointing any problems.
A common recommendation from expert health care professionals is to have thorough eye examinations on regular basis, because many eye diseases are able to affect your eyesight without exhibiting any particular symptoms initially.
In addition to external eye examination, a minimal eye exam normally includes tests for pupil function, direct ophthalmoscopy through an undilated pupil, visual acuity and extraocular muscle motility.
On the other hand, a detailed examination also covers tests for intraocular pressure and visual fields in addition to the tests listed above.
Significance of Eye Exam for Your Eye Health
One of the biggest reasons for consulting your eye doctor regularly for eye exams is that many eye diseases capable of devastating your vision, such as cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration, exhibit no to minimal symptoms until the damage is already done.
To avoid such a scenario, early detection of the diseases is one viable solution, which leads to early treatment, increasing the probability of halting or slowing down the growth of the disease, thus saving as much of your eyesight as possible.
A comprehensive eye examination will help your eye specialist pick out the initial signs of these diseases. So, whenever you suffer from eye problems like eye allergies, red eyes, dry eyes, swollen eyes, and eye pain persistently, seek help from a professional eye doctor as soon as possible.
Eye Exam Vs Eye Screening – Know the Difference
Some people tend to confuse vision screening with a comprehensive eye exam; the two are quite different actually. Screenings usually do not last longer than a few minutes, often performed by volunteers instead of eye care professionals.
Mostly, vision screenings comprise of a visual acuity test confined to identifying the smallest letters possible on a vision chart at a certain distance from a person.
In practice, vision screenings are used only for detection of subnormal visual acuity and a few other major vision problems in the most cost effective and time saving manner. They are generally not designed to detect subtle vision problems and eye diseases capable of affecting the sight to the point of vision loss.
In most cases, people failing a vision screening test (those with a visual acuity worse than 20/40) are informed of the results and encouraged to seek professional help, so that an experienced eye doctor can diagnose and treat their vision problem with eyeglasses, contact lenses, medication, surgery or low vision aids.
On the other hand, only licensed eye doctors (an ophthalmologist or optometrist) are eligible to perform eye exams, not only evaluating your visual acuity, but thoroughly assessing your eye health. This also includes looking for early signs of serious eye problems like macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and detached retina.
In fact, thorough assessment of eyes in a comprehensive eye exam also helps doctors spot early signs of some serious health problems (overall health problems) ranging from high blood pressure and diabetes to risk of stroke by examining delicate blood vessels and various other structures within human eyes.
Who Should Get an Eye Exam and How Often
The importance of eye exams can never be overstated for both children and adults. To make sure your eyes function optimally and you can see as best as possible, your eyes should be checked on regular basis.
Regular eye exams serve as a tool to check for early signs of eye diseases or conditions capable of affecting not only your eyesight, but also your overall health. That’s why we recommend regular eye exams for infants as well as adults.
Just as the nature of care for our bodies continue to evolve as we age, requiring different sort of attention, prevention and medication with time; the same holds true for the health and wellness of our eyes, they need an evolving care. So, let’s have a look at who should have an eye exam and how often.
|i)||Why Should They Take Eye Exams at This Age?|
Infants rely approximately 80% on their eyes to learn from their surroundings. So, an impaired vision results in negatively affecting a child’s physical, emotional, cognitive and neurological development due to limited exposure to the range of experiences and information that comes through vision.
|ii)||How Often Should They Take Eye Exam?|
6 months old
Between 2-3 years old
What an Eye Doctor Looks for in Eye Exams?
From common eye problems like farsightedness, nearsightedness or astigmatism, a seasoned eye doctor never forgets looking for other eye diseases and problems capable of leading to vision loss. Some of the most common eye conditions that are checked for in an eye exam include:
Strabismus: It is the technical term used to refer to crossed or turned eyes. Strabismus is identified by checking eyes’ alignment to ensure that they work harmoniously together. It not only causes problems with depth perception, but can also lead to amblyopia.
Amblyopia: This refers to the condition where there is misalignment between the eyes or when prescription for one eye is much different than the other one. If left untreated, Amblyopia can potentially lead to permanent vision loss by stunting the visual development of the affected eye.
Eye Diseases: One of the major issues with many eye problems like glaucoma and diabetic eye disease is that they lack definite symptoms through their early stages. Taking regular eye exams increases the probability of early detection and treatment of such diseases, ultimately reducing the risks of permanent vision loss.
Other Diseases: One major benefit of regular eye exams is that detailed examination of eye’s retina, blood vessels and so forth, can help your eye specialist identify early signs of ailments like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other such problems. For instance, bleeding or leaking small blood vessels can hint about your chances of suffering from diabetes, which might lead to swollen macula (the most sensitive part of your retina), a potential source of vision loss.
According to estimates, about one third of U.S citizens suffering from diabetes are not aware of this. Courtesy to regular eye exams, your eye doctor might be able to detect the problem earlier than your primary physician.
Red Flags – Warning Signs to Consider Taking Eye Exam
Though one eye exam every year suffices for majority of people in taking good care of their eye health, some people might need more than that, depending upon the condition of their eyes.
For people over 50, vision can undergo some changes through a whole year. So, you must be aware of some major red flags, the warning signs to look out for scheduling a comprehensive eye exam for your eyes as soon as possible.
- When your eyes remain red, itchy or dry continually, you often see light flashes, spots or floaters.
- When you are suffering from a health condition like diabetes (or any other), which can take its toll on your eyesight or when you have a family history of glaucoma, you might need to visit eye doctor more than once e year, especially when you are over 50 years of age.
- If you are unable to recall when you took your last eye exam, it means you are overdue on one and it has been well over a year.
- If you are uncomfortable seeing street signs and driving in the dark, it’s about time you look for a detailed eye examination.
- When you are bothered with frequent headaches, eyestrain or blurred vision after getting an extended exposure of a computer screen, consider seeing an eye doctor as soon as possible.
- If you are often experiencing motion sickness, dizziness or trouble following a moving object, you better line up for professional help.
Overall Health Problems Eye Exams Can Detect
It might come as surprise to many of you, but an eye exam can be equally effective in determining your overall wellness in many aspects just as a physical examination.
Unfortunately, a huge percentage of U.S citizens keep avoiding eye doctor as long as they don’t observe some noticeable changes in their vision, but this is as bad for their eye health as it is for their overall health.
You better never undermine the significance of comprehensive eye exams. There is a high probability that your eyesight is going down gradually, without you even noticing it any time soon.
In addition to probing for eye specific issues like cataracts, glaucoma or retinal problems, a comprehensive eye exam might prove as a way of detecting other health issues, some of which are listed here:
Cancer: Your eye doctor detecting any unusualness about the structure of your eye can hint about ocular melanoma, a condition developing in the cells of eye that can result in formation of pigmentation in your eyes. Similarly, skin cancer can be detected by observing your eyes in an eye exam, where basal cell carcinomas (BCC) can affect eyelids, even spreading to the brain through eyes, if remain undetected and untreated.
Diabetes: In a person suffering from diabetes, small blood capillaries within eye retina can get affected, which can result in leaking of blood or a yellowish fluid. An eye doctor would know about this on thorough examination of eyes, the condition also referred commonly as diabetic retinopathy.
High Cholesterol: If your eye specialist notices a yellowish ring around your cornea, it might be a sign of high cholesterol. Similarly, plaques forming in blood vessels of retina can also indicate elevated cholesterol.
Hypertension: When bends, kinks or tears appear in blood vessels of your eyes, this can be an indication of hypertension.
Thyroid Disease: Bulging eyes or protruding eyeballs happen to be one of the most undeniable signs of thyroid disease, which is very likely to be discovered during an eye exam.
Eyesight is one of the most precious gifts of nature to any human being. A regularly scheduled eye exam enables your eye doctor stay informed and updated about any changes in your vision, general eye health as well as your overall health.
As you age, the results of the eye exam can help identify problems and work out timely solutions for them, thus keeping your eyes healthy and vision as sharp as possible.