It’s been said that the eyes are a window into the soul – but they are also a window to your well-being. Whether you have 20/20 vision or need glasses to see clearly, an annual eye exam can help to catch and prevent both eye and non-eye related issues and diseases.
The obvious benefit of an eye exam is to help detect and treat vision problems, most commonly myopia (near-sightedness) and hyperopia (far-sightedness). The right glasses or contacts can be an easy fix; in fact, 11 million of the 14 million Americans with vision impairments could adjust their eyesight with the right prescription.
Indicators that you may need glasses or a new prescription:
- Persistent headaches or neck aches.
- Frequent squinting to see text or objects clearly.
- Holding objects farther away to see them distinctly.
- Finding yourself increasing the text size on your phone or computer screen.
- Being overly distressed by glare or bright sunlight.
- Double or blurred vision.
The World Health Organization reports that 80% of eyesight issues are treatable with the appropriate therapy regimen, making an eye exam the first step in healing your vision.
Early Detection of Eye Disorders
In addition to correcting vision, an annual eye exam can help detect, diagnose and treat eye disorders, which as many as one third of adults will experience by age 65 with the risk expanding after age 40.
During your eye exam, your doctor will perform tests in attempts to nab eye diseases as soon as possible, allowing for quicker and more comprehensive treatment. Many eye diseases can be treated more efficiently with early detection. For example, your eye doctor will test you for glaucoma and cataracts, which occur later in life but can be treated more easily if spotted sooner, or they might test your infant for amblyopia (lazy eye), also more easily treated if caught as soon as possible.
According to the American Optometric Association, many eye diseases have few or no symptoms, which makes an annual exam more important, even if you think you don’t need one.
Eye diseases that can be caught and treated through an eye exam:
- Glaucoma. This eye disease corrupts the optic nerve, the part of the eye responsible for sending images from the eye to the brain. Eye exams will test inner eye pressure and the shape and color of the optic nerve to determine if there has been damage.
- Cataracts. Caused by a clumping of cells over the lens that turn yellow and cloudy with age, cataracts affect your ability to see clearly.
- Dry eye disease. Results from lack of lubrication and causes pain, itching and burning.
- Aged-related macular degeneration. This eye disease occurs when the macula (the center of the retina) weakens with age. This can result in blurriness, changes in the ability to see and decipher colors and blindness.
Beyond Eye Health
Eye exams can also help determine and diagnose various other health problems in the body. By monitoring changes in eyesight and the eye, doctors can catch signs for a variety of conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, thyroid eye disease and malignant eye melanoma.
For instance, an eye exam provides a look into the cardiovascular system, allowing doctors a clear view of your blood vessels which can help point to signs of heart disease and high blood pressure before signs of illness become apparent elsewhere in the body.
One of the most significant disorders that can be determined through an eye exam is diabetes. When high blood sugar levels are present in the body, they can cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina resulting in blurred vision or even blindness or diabetic retinopathy. In fact, the American Diabetes Association claims that diabetes is the “leading cause of new onset blindness in working-age people.”
During your eye exam, your doctor will see if your retina’s blood vessels are damaged and refer you for a diabetes test, if necessary. When it comes to diabetes and your vision, however, there is plenty of hope. The AOA reports that 95% of people with diabetic retinopathy can fend off considerable loss of vision through early treatment.
New Technologies Used at the Eye Doctor
So, you’ve seen how eye exams are critically important to both your eye and overall health, but you’re still nervous about going to the eye doctor. Not to worry! The latest technologies and tests can lead to shorter, less invasive, more thorough exams.
- Snellen eye chart. Okay, so this one isn’t so new, but it’s certainly painless. It’s the same old eye chart you used in school and is the primary and most basic method for examining your vision.
- Vision profiler. This technology produces an in-depth vision profile, like a fingerprint for your eye. This can allow your doctor to determine how you see differently during the day versus at night.
- Digital retinal scan. This tool scans the retina and provides your doctor with an image of the interior of your eye. No dilation is necessary for this process, which means no light sensitivity or difficulty focusing afterwards.
- Lens profiler. This is a digital lens measuring tool that evaluates your current prescription, determines your new, more accurate prescription and can even replicate a before and after vision example.
- Clarifye℠ is a digital eye exam technology available from LensCrafters that establishes the curvature of your cornea and takes as little as one minute.
Who Should Get an Eye Exam?
Everyone should get an annual eye exam, but they are especially important for certain populations, including children.
For kids, the AOA reports that 80% of learning including recognition, comprehension and retention of information is visual, which means children need to be able to see properly to do their best and learn at optimum levels. The AOA says that 25% of kids have an undetected vision issue, which can lead to problems in school, sports and behaviorally if not treated properly. Eye exams are recommended at six months old, three years old, before first grade, and yearly after that.
Women comprise another population for whom it is important to schedule annual eye exams as they are more likely to develop eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts and dry eye disease.
Ready to book your annual eye exam? Check out LensCrafters. You’ll find friendly, knowledgeable doctors, modern technologies and a variety of frames, plus AAA members get exclusive savings on lenses, eye exams and more.