How often should I get eyes check?
The frequency of routine eye appointment recommended by the American Optometric Academy(AOA) is largely depending on age. Children should have their first eye exam at six months, their second at three-year- old, and their third before they begin Kindergarten.
AOA recommends that, from ages six to sixty, people whose vision isn’t considered “at-risk” have an eye exam every other year. That is the reason why some insurance carrier covers routine eye exam once every two years. And then, have eye exam once every year from age 60 on. For those with “at-risk” vision, the best schedule will be determined by the eye doctor.
What Does It Mean To Be “At Risk?”
Several factors can put an individual’s vision at greater risk than the general populace. These include having systemic diseases, e.g. diabetes or hypertension. These diseases can have a severe impact on vision health. Fundus exam allows eye doctor to evaluate status of blood vessels in the eyes as a window of the body, which help to identify damages at earlier stage.
A family history of glaucoma, retinal detachment and macular degeneration is also a major risk factor. Some patients who were identified to have risk to develop glaucoma should have eyes checked more frequently. Missing routine eye exam for several years for people who have higher glaucoma risk might lead to more advanced stage glaucoma. Visual field loss due to glaucoma is very unlikely to recover.
Many prescription drugs have eye-related side effects, like dry eye, and your optometrist will want to carefully monitor your vision health if you’re taking these types of medications.
Another at risk example is contact lens wearer. Yearly contact lens examination before ordering contact lenses is mandated by law. The older Contact lens materials are not very breathable, which present an increased risk of eye infection and other complications. Upgrade to more high Dk value and more comfortable lenses will save your eyes from potential long term damages. Your optometrist is the expert who knows the new contact lens trend. During contact lens exam, ask eye doctor questions related with contact lens wearing and your specific visual needs, eye care specialist will offer the lens option that fits you the best. Some early signs of dry eye, low oxygen side effect due to poor lenses could be tolerated without any patient awareness. Eye doctors are trained to identify these signs before they manifest. Changes made to lens choice, cleaning and wearing habits will ensure long term contact lens wearing comfort and success.
The definition of “At risk” should include not only risk to have eye diseases, but also risk of myopia progression. Children and teenagers are at much higher risk to become more nearsightedness. Their myopia progress speed can be stunning. One of my patients was examined in September and diagnosed with myopia. Mom hesitated to have her son wearing glasses, waited until next January to place glasses order. Kid wasn’t seeing well with new glasses. It turned out myopia progressed 0.5 and 0.75 diopter in each eye. At the time being founds to have myopia, many children have -1.00 to -2.00 diopters. The prescription likely progresses another one or more d
iopters in the next year if not educated regarding wearing corrective lenses and how to use eyes properly. Sadly to say, myopia is almost irreversible. Therefore, Yan Lu OD recommends a follow up visit 2-3 months after initial visit for first time myopia patients to ensure good understanding of visual hygiene and compliance of wearing corrective lenses. The sooner kids understand how to use eyes correctly; the earlier myopia progression slows down or even stopped.
What Refractive problem can happen if someone misses an eye exam for several years?
Refraction could have more significant change than having eyes examined yearly. It is usually more challenging to adapt to a bigger prescription change, which may results in eye strain, dizziness or headaches. Sometimes, due to long term over focusing eyes, unstable accommodative status is seen during exam. It may require a weaker prescription as an intermediate step to allow smooth transition. Otherwise, nonadaptation to prescription is higher than people who have their eyes checked every year.
When is Time for Urgent Visit?
At-risk or not, as mentioned above, there are some circumstances in which you shouldn’t wait until your next regularly scheduled appointment to pay your optometrist a visit.
Flashes and Floaters
It could be perfectly normal to have a few floaters show up from time to time in your eyes. It usually takes about 1 month for eyes to get used to seeing floaters and start ignore those. However, if you suddenly see new ones, even if there is only one, you should definitely schedule an urgent eye exam, particularly if the floaters are accompanied by bright flashes of light or loss of peripheral vision. These are symptoms of retinal detachment, and can cause permanent blindness if not treated quickly enough. One day a patient came to my office to update glasses prescription. I found a macular hole with 20/200 vision in one eye. He then recalled had noticed a floater a year ago. Unfortunately, his vision could not be restored.
Headaches aren’t always the result of eye problems, but it isn’t uncommon for optometrists to spot the causes of chronic headaches first. You may be having these headaches because of eye strain caused by your digital screens. If so, there’s no need to continue suffering in silence when we can help. A thorough eye exam once helps me diagnose brain tumor. The patient reported to have chronic headaches with clear vision so far. Optic nerve atrophy was noted in fundus. Subsequent visual field analyses show typical visual pathway abnormality. The patient was immediately sent to neurology department. At the end, life was saved.
Red Eye and Discharge
If you’re experiencing blurred vision, light sensitivity, unusual discharge from your eye, itchiness, redness, or pain, visit your local eye doctor as soon as you can. Red eyes could be some type of conjunctivitis, which can be easily treated with antibiotic eye medication, or more severe type of corneal diseases, systemic immune diseases. Experience eye doctors are trained to differentiate and treat all these conditions.
Clear Vision and healthy eyes are extremely important to our everyday life. Get eye exam on a regular basis allows you to see clearly, ensures you understand potential risk to eyes and take necessary actions to combat all the challenges in this fast changing world.