Eye doctors are not on the lookout (pun intended) only for poor vision. Their goal is to care for their patients’ eye health in general, to make sure that the eyes are healthy even if nearsightedness or farsightedness is an issue. In fact, poor vision is not the only or even the first sign of eye disease – it’s usually the last indicator, and once you start to lose vision, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to get it back.
This is why it is so important to visit the eye doctor and receive a comprehensive eye exam regularly. Doing so allows doctors to detect things that you can’t and catch problems early – while they’re easier to manage – before they become serious. Additionally, if you wear contact lenses, annual exams are mandatory.
A routine comprehensive eye exam usually takes about one hour to 90 minutes. It includes a variety of tests, including refraction, binocular vision testing, color vision testing, dilation with thorough retina assessment, a glaucoma check, slit lamp observation, visual fields assessment, and others. The selection of tests performed will depend on your specific needs and history. If you wear contact lenses, a contact lens workup will be needed as part of the exam and will require additional tests. Everyone needs a regular eye exam, regardless of vision correction needs and overall eye health.
Because many eye diseases present no obvious symptoms in their early stages, prompt detection, diagnosis, and treatment are integral to the success of preserving your vision or at least reducing the risk of permanent vision loss. Additionally, many people are not aware that eye health is connected to overall health, and an eye exam can sometimes detect systemic conditions.
It’s recommended that adults (with no risk factors or family history of eye problems) get an eye exam at least every two years. After age 60, they should be visiting their eye doctor once a year. Children need a check-up at six months, three years, before 1st grade, then once a year after that.
Besides optometrists’ offices, many schools and workplaces offer free vision screenings. While these can be helpful, they are not nearly as comprehensive as professional eye exams, so it is important that you schedule an appointment with your eye doctor regularly.