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The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that adults with no signs or risk factors for eye disease get a baseline eye examination at the age of 40. This is the age at which some of the earliest signs of eye disease may first present.
People with healthy eyes and good vision should have a complete eye exam by an ophthalmologist once in their 20s and twice in their 30s. People who experience blurry vision, eye pain, infection, injury, or unusual flashes or patterns of light before the age of 40 should also see an eye doctor.
Individuals with risk factors such as a family history of eye disease, diabetes or high blood pressure should see an opthamologist before the age of 40 to determine how frequently their eyes should be examined.
The baseline screening should not replace regular visits to the ophthalmologist for patients with ongoing eye disease or patients who receive regular vision examinations for glasses or contact lenses. If you wear glasses or contacts, see your eye specialist annually.
A comprehensive baseline eye exam will assess:
1. Your medical history
Your doctor will ask you to evaluate your vision and the general state of your health.
2. Your visual acuity
You will be asked to cover one eye at a time and read a standardized eye chart with the uncovered eye to assess how well you are able to see at different distances.
3. Your pupils
Your pupils are the dark hole located in the center of your iris, the colored part of the eye. Your doctor will shine a bright light into your eyes and monitor how your pupils react to light. Normal pupils constrict or become smaller in light and widen when darker.
4. Your peripheral vision
Your peripheral vision consists of what you see in the outer edge of your vision when looking straight ahead.
5. Your eye movement
Your doctor will evaluate the function of your ocular muscles by observing your ability to move your eyes quickly in all directions and slowly track objects.
6. Your prescription for corrective lenses
You will be asked to view an eye chart through a phoropter containing different lenses to determine the proper prescription for glasses or contacts.
7. Your eye pressure
Your doctor will perform a tonometry tests to measure the pressure within your eyes. The test may consist of a quick puff of air onto the eye or by gently applying a pressure-sensitive tip against the eye. Elevated pressure within the eyes can be a sign of an eye condition called glaucoma.
8. The front of your eye
A slit lamp microscope will be used to examine the front of your eyes to determine whether you are developing cataracts or scratches on your cornea, the transparent layer covering your eyes.
9. Your retina and optic nerve
During this part of your exam, your ophthalmologist will put drops in your eyes to dilate or widen your pupils so that they can look into your eyes and examine your retina and the optic nerve which are located at the back of the eye. After this portion of the exam your vision may temporarily remain blurry and your eyes will be sensitive to light. You may be given a pair of shaded glasses to protect your eyes until your pupils are no longer dilated.