While most people tend to have regular check-ups with their family physician – and some even visit the dentist consistently – the eye examination is often neglected, though it is equally important. Not only can a thorough eye exam detect vision problems, it can also uncover numerous systemic diseases including diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and colon problems, MS (multiple sclerosis) and others. A simple new procedure, currently in clinical trials, even shows promise in affecting the early detection of Alzheimer’s.
As you can see, comprehensive eye examinations are important, but how do you know just how often you should go to see your eye doctor?
When to Go
For healthy adults, most sources recommend eye examinations every two years up to age 60. After 60, an eye exam is recommended annually, or sometimes even more frequently. At this point in life, presbyopia often develops, or has already developed, and visual acuity fluctuates as you try to focus on different depths of field. If this sounds familiar, please see your doctor to see if glasses or presbyopia contacts are right for you.
Similarly, if you have diabetes or high blood pressure; a family history of eye disease like glaucoma or macular degeneration; or currently wear glasses/contact lenses, then you should also schedule annual visit. If you find your prescription has changed and it’s time to upgrade your lenses, ask your doctor about the latest offerings from Acuvue, Air Optix and Bausch & Lomb and see which is right for you.
For children, eye examinations are recommended at six months old, around three years of age and then prior to the start of school. Children with no troubling vision symptoms should continue to visit the eye doctor every two years. On the other hand, children facing potential issues such as a family history of eye disease, premature birth, developmental delays or strabismus (cross-eyed) should be evaluated annually. It is further recommended that children who already wear glasses or contacts see their eye doctor once a year, or more frequently.
Who to See
When considering which eye care professional, there are three options: ophthalmologists (MDs), optometrists (ODs) and opticians. Find out which one is right for you by reading through their distinctions below.
- Ophthalmologists are certified, licensed, practicing physicians. They have completed medical school followed by an internship, and a residency of three plus years. His/her duties are as follows:
- Prescribes glasses and contact lenses for vision correction.
- Provides medical care for eye conditions such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, corneal ulcers and others.
- Performs eye surgeries on cataracts, glaucoma and other eye conditions.
- Does cosmetic surgery on areas around the eye.
- Implements treatment of eye problems related to systemic diseases.
- Optometrists are not physicians but medical professionals with a college degree as well as a four-year degree in optometry. Many optometrists follow-up their optometry degree with clinical training. An optometrist must:
- Perform vision exams for glasses and contact lenses.
- Fit eyeglasses and contacts.
- Diagnose eye conditions like glaucoma, cataracts, conjunctivitis and others.
- Prescribe medication (in approved states).
- Provide vision aids and visual therapy.
- Opticians are eye care professionals who are trained via licensed opticianry programs or apprenticeships. Opticians often have a two-year degree or certificate. An optician’s role includes:
- Taking measurements to ensure proper fit.
- Supplying, adjusting and repairing eyeglass lenses, frames and contact lenses.
- Instructing patients in proper use and care.
Ophthalmologists, optometrists and opticians often work together to ensure that patients get the best care available. When choosing, just be sure to make the decision based on your individual needs. Whichever eye care profession you select, don’t forget to make the appointment and stick to it – after all, your eye health and vision depend on it!