The Importance of Having Regular Eye Exams Even If You Have Perfect Vision

Comprehensive eye exams don't take much time but are essential to monitor your eye health. At Accent Vision Specialists in Sa

If you have 20/20 vision, you might think you don't need to have eye exams — they're just for people who need glasses, right? In reality, that isn't the case. Routine eye exams are a critical preventive health service, just like your annual checkup with your primary care provider. 

Why are regular eye exams important?

As with many health conditions, most eye diseases don't cause noticeable symptoms until your vision is damaged. Regular eye exams can reveal concerns with your eye health before they become big problems.

Glaucoma is often referred to as the silent thief of sight. More than 3 million Americans have glaucoma, a condition in which your optic nerve suffers from excessive internal eye pressure or a lack of blood flow to the nerve, or both. When left undiagnosed and untreated, the condition damages your optic nerve and can lead to blindness. 

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is another eye disease that doesn't cause symptoms until your central vision deteriorates. While there's no cure for AMD, when your eye doctor diagnoses it early, they can coordinate treatment to slow the progression of the disease and preserve your vision.

Your optometric physician can also identify other health conditions during a routine eye exam. Your eyes provide a unique view of your overall health. They show warning signs of other diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and many other conditions. 

During your eye exam, your optometrist evaluates the health of your retina, including its blood vessels. Those vessels are a good predictor of the health of the blood vessels in the rest of your body. 

For example, 70 million Americans have high blood pressure, but about 13 million of them don't know they have the condition. If your eye doctor tells you that you have signs of high blood pressure during your eye exam, you can make an appointment with your primary care provider and start treatment and lifestyle changes that could save your life. 

How often should I have an eye exam?

As an adult, you should have a comprehensive eye exam every year. When you turn 65, you should have exams every 6-12 months, depending on your eye health, as your risk of eye diseases such as cataracts and AMD increases.

If you have children, get their eyes checked at 6 months, 3 years, and 5 years old. If they have healthy eyes and perfect vision, schedule eye exams for them every two years.

Myopia (nearsightedness) is becoming more common in younger children, and it can interfere with their success at school and increase their risk of eye problems later in life. However, when the condition is diagnosed and treated early, your optometrist can help protect and preserve their vision.

What should I expect during an eye exam?

During your eye exam, you read tiny letters on the Snellen eye chart, but an eye exam isn't just to test your visual acuity. Your provider also performs a variety of tests to assess the health of your eyes.

For example, the slit lamp exam allows your doctor to examine the structures of your eyes in detail. The slit lamp is like a microscope that magnifies images of your eyes. Your doctor examines the front of your eyes, including your eyelids, conjunctiva, iris, and lens as well as the interior of your eyes - the retina and optic nerve.

Your provider also does tonometry - obtains a pressure reading of the fluid of your eyes. This can be a measure of risk for glaucoma.  The test is completely painless and if it reveals high eye pressure, your doctor will perform other tests check for signs of glaucoma.

Comprehensive eye exams don't take much time but are essential to monitor your eye health. At Accent Vision Specialists in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Dwight Thibodeaux, OD, and Paul Tachau, OD, provide comprehensive eye exams to protect your vision and your overall health. Call us to request an appointment today.

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