The quality of your vision can easily deteriorate as a result of age or disease. Regular eye exams are the best means available for the early detection of eye disorders that, if not treated, can lead to vision problems and possibly even blindness. If it’s been more than a year or two since your last eye test, then today is the day you should schedule a complete eye examination. Read on for more information about why eye exams are important and what to expect during your visit to your local ophthalmologist.
Why Is It Important to Undergo Regular Eye Exams?
When diagnosed early on, many eye diseases can be cured or treated, helping to prevent permanent vision impairment. Unfortunately, many diseases of the eye have no noticeable symptoms in their earliest stages. While the early warning signs of a serious eye disorder may be invisible to you, they are often easily detectable through an eye test performed by a trained ophthalmologist.
Eye exams can also reveal the earliest clues to the presence of an overall body ailment. For example, one of the earliest signs of diabetes is the leaking of fragile blood vessels in the eye. High blood pressure and high cholesterol may also be detected by your eye doctor before the condition becomes apparent to your regular physician.
How Often Should I Schedule Eye Exams?
Most eye care experts recommend that people undergo a complete eye exam every one to three years, depending upon age, physical condition, and what risk factors are present. If you have already been prescribed eyeglasses or contact lenses, you should undergo a complete eye test annually. Along with screening for eye diseases, an exam will allow your eye doctor to check on the stability of your lens prescription and possibly take action if your eye condition is deteriorating at an abnormal rate.
A child’s first eye exam should normally be scheduled before he or she reaches six months of age. Children with a family history of eye disease or who have exhibited developmental delays should have an annual eye exam.
Adults diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure, or other diseases may need to be tested for vision problems more frequently. A physician can advise these patients as to how often eye testing should be performed. Adults over the age of 40 should have their eyes tested a minimum of every two years to allow for early detection of common age-related eye maladies, such as presbyopia, cataracts, and macular degeneration.
What Kind of Eye Tests Will the Doctor Conduct?
Eye exams tend to begin with your doctor asking a series of questions about your medical history and eye health. The exam will then involve a series of tests, none of which will cause the patient pain or discomfort.
Visual Acuity Tests
Most people are familiar with the Snellen Chart, even if they do not know it by name. The chart is organized as a series of lines populated by random letters that decrease in size from the top of the chart to the bottom. Visual acuity tests for distance vision are commonly used in the eye screenings children receive in the school nurse’s office as well as in the test you probably had to undergo at the DMV to get your driver’s license. A modified version of this test can also be used to test your near vision. The Snellen Chart is a quick and easy way to detect refractive errors and can help determine the overall quality of your vision.
Eye Movement and Peripheral Vision Tests
During an eye exam, eye movement and peripheral vision are tested by moving an object, usually a small light, through the patient's field of vision. If initial peripheral vision testing results are ambiguous and your doctor has reason to think there may be a problem, a chart consisting of a series of concentric circles will be employed to better pinpoint possible blind spots in the edges of your vision. The loss of peripheral vision can be a sign of serious disorders in the eye or brain, so it is important that your eye doctor follow up on any suspected vision anomalies. The eye’s responsiveness to light is measured to ensure that your retina is exhibiting the proper level of photosensitivity.
Patterns composed of multicolored dots arranged in a pattern to form specific numbers and letters are used to test colorblindness. The test is designed in such as way as to prevent a colorblind person from being able to read the symbols in each pattern. Although color vision can sometimes be affected by the yellowing of the cornea with age, the most common forms of colorblindness are hereditary and present at birth.
In the vast majority of cases, colorblindness is not treatable, but depending upon the severity of the condition, a color blind person can learn to distinguish colors based on lightness and darkness rather than hue. Young people should be tested for colorblindness prior to obtaining their driving permit. A common disability among the severely colorblind is the inability to properly interpret traffic light signals.
Tonometry tests are often performed while you are seated at a slit lamp. A slit lamp is a type of microscope with a light attached to it that is specially designed to give your eye doctor a magnified view of your anterior eye structures, such as the lens, cornea, and iris. An air puff tonometer may also be used. This instrument directs a puff of air at the eye in order to temporarily flatten the cornea. A cornea that does not respond to the air puff is indicative of high intraocular (inner eye) pressure. The air puff eye test is less precise than other methods, but it is also quicker, so it is often used to screen children.
An ophthalmoscopy is also usually administered in eye exams. During this part of an eye exam, the eye is dilated using special eye drops. The retina, fundus (back of the eye), retinal vessels, and optic nerve head (optic disc) are then viewed with an ophthalmoscope, another type of microscope with an attached light.
Although these tests may seem time consuming when considered individually, a complete eye exam usually only takes about an hour. Your vision is precious. A single hour every one to two years is a small price to pay for maintaining the health of your eyes.
What Types of Conditions Can an Eye Exam Diagnose?
The eye functions like a complex machine, and there are many things that can go wrong with its individual processes. Here is a list of eye conditions that can be detected during the different phases of an eye test. You can click on the links for more information about each disorder.
Conditions Diagnosed During Visual Acuity Tests
- Low Vision
- Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)
Conditions Diagnosed During Eye Movement and Peripheral Vision Tests
- Strabismus (Crossed Eyes)
- Refractive Errors
Conditions Diagnosed During Colorblindness Tests
Conditions Diagnosed During Tonometry Tests
- Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)
Conditions Diagnosed During Ophthalmoscopy
- Diabetic Retinopathy
- Macular Degeneration
- Retinal Detachment
- Dry Eye Syndrome
- Eye Allergies
Schedule an Eye Test with an Ophthalmologist in Your Area
Ophthalmologists are trained eye care specialists experienced in the administration of eye exams and the treatment of various eye disorders. Feel free to use our helpful eye physician database to find a qualified ophthalmologist in your area with whom you can schedule an eye test to help protect the quality of your vision and the health of your eyes.