Regular eye exams are an invaluable tool in maintaining eye health by detecting and preventing disease. Some diseases, such as glaucoma, develop gradually without causing pain or vision loss, so patients may not notice that anything is wrong until significant and irreversible damage has been done. Early detection of eye diseases can allow for a choice of treatment options and reduced risk of permanent damage.
Who should get an eye exam?
Patients should see their doctor for a comprehensive eye exam every one to three years, depending on their age, risk of disease and overall physical condition. Children should have regular tests to ensure the proper development of their vision and prevent any interference with their academic achievements. Older adults are often at a higher risk for eye conditions such as glaucoma, macular degeneration and cataracts. Even if your eyes are healthy, you should still have a regular eye exam to detect any problems as soon as possible and begin necessary treatment.
What happens during an eye exam?
An eye exam is different from a vision screening, which only tests vision and is commonly performed by a school nurse, pediatrician or other health care provider. Only your eye doctor can perform a comprehensive eye exam to evaluate the overall health of the eye and detect any changes that may indicate a vision disorder. During a routine eye exam, your doctor will evaluate your eyes for refractive errors, as well as common conditions such as:
- Diabetic eye disease
This is done through a series of eye tests that examine all aspects of the eye, including a visual field test, dilation, glaucoma test, slit-lamp examination, cover test, retinoscopy and refraction. These tests can all be performed in your doctor’s office and are safe for all patients.
After completing the comprehensive exam and coming to an accurate diagnosis, your doctor will develop a treatment plan based on the findings of the exam. This treatment plan usually includes a prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses, medication, vision therapy, eye vitamins, vision supplements or surgery for serious conditions.
Common Eye Conditions
The most common eye conditions diagnosed during a comprehensive eye exam involve refractive errors that cause blurry vision for patients. These conditions affect millions of people in the US and often get progressively worse as patients age. Fortunately, refractive errors can be easily treated to let patients enjoy clear vision at all distances.
Nearsightedness, or myopia, is a vision condition in which nearby objects are clear and distant objects appear blurry. This may be caused by excess corneal curvature or an oblong rather than a spherical shape to the eye, both of which affect the way light is bent upon entering the eye and whether or not it focuses properly on the retina.
Myopia affects nearly one-third of all people in the US to some degree, with symptoms usually appearing before the age of 20. Patients with myopia have difficulty focusing on objects in the distance, such as a chalkboard or TV.
Farsightedness, or hyperopia, is a condition in which the eye focuses on distant objects better than on objects closer to the eye, so nearby objects appear blurry. This happens when light rays refract, or bend, incorrectly in the eye. The eye is designed to focus images directly on the surface of the retina, but when the cornea is incorrectly curved light rays focus behind the surface, producing a blurry image.
Astigmatism occurs when the cornea is curved slightly in one direction, causing blurred vision. While the cornea usually refracts to focus light on the retina, some of the light focuses in front of or behind the retina in patients with astigmatism. In addition to blurry vision, patients with astigmatism may also experience headaches, eye strain and fatigue. The severity of symptoms depends on the degree of astigmatism in the eyes.
All of these vision conditions can be effectively corrected through eyeglasses and contact lenses. Eyewear may be used during certain activities, such as watching television or driving, or at all times. At our practice, we offer patients a wide selection of eyeglass frames, lenses and contact lenses in our Optical Shop. We also have a full service lab to prepare the lenses for patients while they wait.