An eye exam involves a series of tests to evaluate your vision and check for eye diseases. Your eye doctor is likely to use various instruments, shine bright lights at your eyes and request that you look through an array of lenses. Each test during an eye exam evaluates a different aspect of your vision or eye health.
Why it's done
An eye exam helps detect eye problems at their earliest stage — when they're most treatable. Regular eye exams give your eye care professional a chance to help you correct or adapt to vision changes and provide you with tips on caring for your eyes. And an eye exam might provide clues to your overall health.
When to have an eye exam
Several factors can determine how frequently you need an eye exam, including your age, health and risk of developing eye problems. General guidelines are as follows:
Children 3 years and younger
Your child's pediatrician will likely check your child's eyes for healthy eye development and look for the most common childhood eye problems — lazy eye, cross-eyes or misaligned eyes. A more comprehensive eye exam between the ages of 3 and 5 will look for problems with vision and eye alignment.
School-age children and adolescents
Have your child's vision checked before he or she enters kindergarten. Your child's doctor can recommend how frequent eye exams should be after that.
In general, if you are healthy and you have no symptoms of vision problems, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends having a complete eye exam at age 40, when some vision changes and eye diseases are likely to start. Based on the results of your screening, your eye doctor can recommend how often you should have future eye exams.
If you're 60 or older, have your eyes checked every year.
Have your eyes checked more often if you:
Wear glasses or contact lenses
Have a family history of eye disease or loss of vision
Have a chronic disease that puts you at greater risk of eye disease, such as diabetes
Take medications that have serious eye side effects
Over 22 percent of people who wear eyeglasses enjoy the benefits of also using contact lenses.
If you are thinking about contact lenses, a contact lens exam will allow your eye doctor to determine if you are suitable for contact lens wear.
Regular comprehensive eye examinations include tests for visual acuity and ocular health. While these tests will help to determine if you require vision correction, they do not include the specialized tests necessary for a contact lens prescription.
A contact lens examination includes specific tests to determine your candidacy for contact lenses, as well as the necessary measurements to determine an optimal contact lens prescription.
During this specialized exam, your eye doctor may also inquire about your lifestyle and any preferences you may have regarding the type of lenses you are interested in— soft lenses, rigid gas permeable lenses, bifocals, multifocals, dailies, bi-weeklies, monthlies, or extended wear options.
Diabetic retinopathy is a diabetes complication that affects eyes. It's caused by damage to the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye (retina).
At first, diabetic retinopathy might cause no symptoms or only mild vision problems. But it can lead to blindness.
The condition can develop in anyone who has type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The longer you have diabetes and the less controlled your blood sugar is, the more likely you are to develop this eye complication.
You might not have symptoms in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. As the condition progresses, you might develop: Spots or dark strings floating in your vision (floaters) Blurred vision Fluctuating vision Dark or empty areas in your vision Vision loss
When to see our doctors:
Careful management of your diabetes is the best way to prevent vision loss. If you have diabetes, see your eye doctor for a yearly eye exam with dilation — even if your vision seems fine. Developing diabetes when pregnant (gestational diabetes) or having diabetes before becoming pregnant can increase your risk of diabetic retinopathy. If you're pregnant, your eye doctor might recommend additional eye exams throughout your pregnancy. Contact your eye doctor right away if your vision changes suddenly or becomes blurry, spotty or hazy.
Dr. Dean Shissias, OD is our low vision specialist on staff.
What is low vision?
Low vision is a vision problem that makes it hard to do everyday activities. It can't be fixed with glasses, contact lenses, or other standard treatments like medicine or surgery.
You may have low vision if you can't see well enough to do things like:
Recognize people's faces
Tell colors apart
See your television or computer screen clearly
What are the types of low vision? The type of low vision that you have depends on the disease or condition that caused your low vision.
The most common types of low vision are: Central vision loss (not being able to see things in the center of your vision)
Peripheral vision loss (not being able to see things out of the corners of your eyes)
Night blindness (not being able to see in low light)
Blurry or hazy vision
What causes low vision? Many different eye conditions can cause low vision, but the most common causes are:
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
Cataracts Diabetic Retinopathy (a condition that can cause vision loss in people with diabetes)
Low vision is more common in older adults because many of the diseases that can cause it are more common in older adults.
Aging doesn't cause low vision on its own. Eye and brain injuries and certain genetic disorders can also cause low vision.
What's the treatment for low vision?
Unfortunately, low vision is usually permanent. Eyeglasses, medicine, and surgery can't usually cure low vision - but sometimes they can improve vision, help you do everyday activities more easily, or keep your vision from getting worse.
Treatment options will depend on the specific eye condition that caused your low vision. Dr. Shissias will discuss if there are any treatments that could improve your vision or help protect your remaining vision.
How can I make the most of my remaining sight?
If you have low vision, you can find ways to make the most of your vision and keep doing the things you love to do.
If your vision loss is minor, you may be able to make small changes to help yourself see better. You can do things like:
Use brighter lights at home or work
Wear anti-glare sunglasses
Use a magnifying lens for reading and other up-close activities
We have these items in the clinic that you can try, and see if they may work for you.
National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health (NEI/NIH)
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