How Often Should You Go To The Eye Doctor?
There is a lot of mixed information out there on how frequent one should get a complete eye exam. The truth of the matter is that someone with healthy eyes will not "need" an eye exam too frequently. This is the case if the eyes feel healthy and the vision is good. But there are official guidelines on how often you should be seen.
Before the age of 40, you can go up to 5 to 10 years without having complete eye exam. After the age of 40, this interval decreases until you reach the age of 65 when you should be visiting your eye doctor every one to two years to screen for cataracts and other eye disease.
These recommended intervals depends on a few different criteria. Certain medical or eye conditions will require you to be seen more frequently.
What does an eye exam tell us
Eye exams are important for screening for disease. There are conditions that occurs in completely asymptomatic eyes.
- Glaucoma is a condition that can occur if the pressure is too high in the eye. In most cases, you won't be able to tell if the pressure in your eye is too high. But your eye pressure is checked on a standard eye exam with an eye doctor.
- Issues in the retina can occur without you noticing any changes in your vision. These retina issues can only be picked up with a dilated eye exam.
- Cataracts can cause you to lose vision over a slow enough period that you don't even realize you are losing vision. But cataracts can be seen easily on an eye exam.
For simple screening such as checking your vision, you can easily visit your primary care doctor. But to get a full dilated eye exam, you must visit either an optometrist or an ophthalmologist. An optometrist is an eye doctor which focuses on the refractive correction of vision through glasses and contact lenses and also focuses on screening for eye disease which may require medical management. An ophthalmologist focuses on the medical and surgical management of eye disease.
But not everyone is at high risk for glaucoma or retinal issues. The older you get, the more important screening eye exams become. Glaucoma and cataracts occur more frequently as you get older.
SO that doesn't exactly answer the question of when you should go to see an eye doctor.
But fortunately there are official guidelines from the American Academy of Ophthalmology for all adults. (And in conjunction with the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, complete recommendations have been developed for children as well)
So here is when you should get a complete eye exam:
Ages 20 to 40
It is recommended to get a complete eye exam at least once in your twenties and twice in your thirties. Even if the eyes feel healthy and the vision is good, you still want to get the eyes checked to make sure that everything else looks good.
However, YOU may require more frequent exams than that schedule:
- If you wear contact lenses, you will want to be seen every year. This is to ensure that the contact lenses aren't causing any issues with your eyes.
If you have any eye symptoms, you shouldn't just wait it out at home.
- Any eye injuries or infections need to be seen and treated.
- Eye pain isn't normal and should be investigated.
- Flashing lights and floaters could be a sign of a retinal tear or retinal detachment.
- You may need to be seen more frequently if you have a family history of certain hereditary eye diseases.
- Medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure will require you to have more frequent eye exams to screen for eye damage from these conditions.
Exam at age 40
Everyone should get their eyes checked at the age of 40. Similar to a screen colonoscopy or a mammogram, this eye exam is designed to pick up any occult asymptomatic condition. Although the risk at this age is low, beyond the age of 40 is when the risk of developing cataracts and / or glaucoma start to increase.
Following this screening exam, your eye doctor will then recommend how frequent you should be seen. It could be as few as every 5 years. It could be as often as every 1-2 years.
But during the forties, your eyes and your prescription will be changing. In particular, your reading vision will be getting worse in a process called presbyopia. This will require you to get reading glasses or progressive glasses. Even if you don't get a “complete” dilated exam to evaluate the health of your eyes, you may still be visiting your eye doctor more frequently just to get your glasses prescription updated.
Age 65 and up
This age group contains the greatest risk of developing cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma. Thus, after the age of 65, it is recommended to have a complete eye exam every 1-2 years to detect these conditions and prevent vision loss.
The most common type of cataract can cause you to not even realize you are losing vision. And you most definitely won't notice the alteration in color perception from the cataract. You may just notice that you need extra light to see or that driving at night-time has become a little harder.
Everyone 65 and up should be evaluated for cataracts (and increasingly this is being done at an earlier age) since cataracts are very effectively and safely removed through cataract surgery. If the cataracts are bothering you and affecting your daily life, then getting your cataracts removed can be great decision to improve your vision and restore your function.
If you are young, healthy with good vision and no complaints, you may not need to visit your eye doctor too frequently for a complete dilated eye exam. As you get older though, the eye changes and the risk for asymptomatic eye disease increases. Complete eye exams can detect important eye changes such as glaucoma, retinal disease such as macular degeneration and cataracts and start to become important to have a regular intervals.
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