Also, optometrists often are the first health care professionals to detect chronic systemic diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Who Should Get Their Eyes Examined?
Eye examinations are an important part of health maintenance for everyone. Adults should have their eyes tested to keep their prescriptions current and to check for early signs of eye disease.
Eye exams for children play an important role in ensuring normal vision development and academic achievement of all kids.
Vision is closely linked to the learning process. Children with undetected vision problems often will have trouble with their schoolwork. Many times, children will not complain of vision problems simply because they don’t know what “normal” vision looks like.
If your child is performing poorly at school, be sure to have his or her eyes examined by an optometrist to rule out an underlying visual cause.
What Is the Optometrist Checking for?
In addition to evaluating your eyes for glasses and contacts, your optometrist will check your eyes for eye diseases and other problems that could lead to vision loss. Here are some examples of the conditions that they will be looking for:
- Refractive error. This refers to nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. Refractive errors are corrected with eyeglasses, contacts or refractive surgery.
- Amblyopia. This occurs when the eyes are turned or when one eye has a much different prescription than the other. The brain will “shut off” the image from the turned or blurry eye. Left untreated, amblyopia can stunt the visual development of the affected eye, resulting in permanent vision impairment. Amblyopia is often treated by patching the stronger eye for periods of time.
- Strabismus. Strabismus is defined as crossed or turned eyes. The examiner will check your eyes’ alignment to be sure that they are working together. Strabismus causes problems with depth perception and can lead to amblyopia.
- Eye teaming problems. Even if you eyes appear to be properly aligned, it’s possible they do not work together efficiently as a team. Such binocular vision problems can cause headaches, eye strain and other problems that can affect reading and other near vision tasks.
- Focusing problems. These problems can range from incompletely developed focusing skills in children to normal age-related declines in focusing ability (presbyopia) among older adults.
- Eye diseases. Many eye diseases, such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, have no symptoms in their early stages. Your optometrist will check the health of your eyes inside and out for signs of early problems. In most cases, early detection and treatment of eye diseases can help reduce your risk for permanent vision loss.
- Other diseases. Optometrists can detect early signs of some conditions and diseases by looking at your eye’s blood vessels, retina and so forth. They may be able to tell you if you are developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol or other problems.For example, diabetes can cause small blood vessel leaks or bleeding in the eye, as well as swelling of the macula, which can lead to vision loss. Your optometrist will likely detect this during a complete eye exam. It is estimated that one-third of Americans who have diabetes don’t know it; your optometrist may detect the disease before your primary care physician does, especially if you’re overdue for a physical.