Why a Yearly Eye Exam is as Important as Your Yearly Dental Visit

Regardless of your age or physical health, it’s important to have your eyes routinely examined.

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Most people are aware that they should visit their physician and dentist once each year, but did you know it's equally important to visit an ophthalmologist? An annual exam allows your doctor to do a variety of things; from identifying risk factors for chronic diseases to counseling on health concerns and promoting healthy behavior. They also help enhance the relationship between you and your doctor, which can make a positive difference in your overall healthcare experience.

Eye examinations are especially crucial if you have diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure, or if you have family history of vision issues like glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration. In addition to handling any visual prescription needs, the eye doctor checks your eyes for current eye disease and other issues that may inhibit your vision.

Did you know that your eyes can be an indicator of your overall health? Aside from eye-specific issues, eye doctors can sometimes detect early signs of disease by looking at the blood vessels in your eyes. For example, diabetes can cause small blood vessel leaks or bleeding in the eye, as well as swelling of the  most sensitive light-sensing part of the eye, which can eventually lead to vision loss. An eye doctor may also be able to tell you if you are developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or other problems and may even detect these problems before they start to cause obvious symptoms.

What exactly is a comprehensive eye exam? Much like a dental exam that goes beyond a simple teeth cleaning, a comprehensive eye exam goes beyond a simple visual acuity test. With a comprehensive exam, the eye doctor does a wide variety of tests to thoroughly examine your eyes. Aside from testing how clearly you can see, you’ll be examined for color-blindness, blind spots, and how well your eyes work as a team. If you’re in need of a prescription, you’ll have a retinoscopy completed so the eye doctor can get an idea of the prescription your eyes need, then a refraction test is used to determine the exact prescription, and lastly you’ll get fitted for glasses or contacts.

The two most important tests within a comprehensive exam are a slit-lamp examination and a glaucoma test. The slit-lamp exam allows the doctor to visualize the inside of the eye by looking through the dilated pupil, while the glaucoma test measures the pressure inside them. These tests thoroughly evaluate your eye health and detect any signs of infection or disease, helping to keep you and your eyes healthy for years to come. You may not need these tests every time you see an eye doctor, but it’s important to have them at some point to get an overall sense of the health of your eyes and to have a comparison for future tests that might need to be done if an issue comes up.

So if you can’t remember the last time you visited your eye doctor, it’s probably time to make the call and schedule an eye exam. If you do get an eye exam, but it’s not a dilated exam, make sure to request one from your doctor. Your eyes and your health will thank you for it.

This article is presented in collaboration with VSP™ Vision Care