When Should I Get an Eye Exam?

Regular eye exams can help you adapt to changes in your vision and catch problems early, while they are easy to treat. But how often do you really need to get your eyes checked? And what can you expect when you go in for an appointment? Keep reading to find out.

Children and Eye Exams

According to the American Optometric Association, Infants should have their first comprehensive Infants should have their first comprehensive eye exam at 6 months old. Children should then receive an additional checkup at 3 years of age. The next exam should happen at 5-years-old or before entering kindergarten and annually thereafter if no vision correction is required.  

Children who need glasses or contact lenses should be examined annually as well or according to their eye doctor’s recommendations. It is important to remember that a child’s visual system has critical development in the first six years of life. During this time, changes in vision or eye health could keep a child from developing necessary visual skills.  Providing vision care can help keep you aware of any vision issues that might cause developmental delays.

Adults and Eye Exams

Some people will need to have their eyes checked more often than others. If you have vision problems and need glasses or contacts, you’ll have to schedule visits at least once per year.

If you are in a high-risk group, schedule eye exams as often as your optometrist recommends. This will help your eye doctor catch problems while they are still treatable and slow or prevent permanent vision loss. People in high-risk groups include:

     - People with a family history of glaucoma or congenital eye conditions such as cataracts

     - People with diabetes

     - People who’ve had previous eye trauma or surgery

What Should You Expect at Your Eye Exam?

When you’ve scheduled your next eye exam, what should you expect when you go in for an appointment? Your optometrist will ask you a few questions about your vision and family history, and then the doctor will conduct a series of tests and examinations. Here are five of the tests and examinations:

  1. Visual Acuity Tests
    Visual acuity tests are probably the first thing you think of when you picture an optometrist’s office. The chart with the giant “e” and progressively smaller rows of letters is a standard tool for testing visual acuity. For younger children who don’t read, the optometrist may use pictures and ask about details.
  2. Cover Eye Test
    The cover eye test is used to see how your eyes work together. Your eye doctor will cover one eye at a time and have you look at an object across the room. This simple test allows the optometrist to check for amblyopia and other conditions that could cause eye strain.
  3. Pupil Dilation and Slit Lamp Examinations
    These examinations allow the optometrist to check the inside of your eye. You’ll probably have to wear sunglasses on your way out of the doctor’s office, but your eyes should return to normal later in the day.
  4. Glaucoma Test
    Most optometrists check for glaucoma with the “puff of air” test. This lets the doctor measure the amount of pressure in your eye. An abnormally high amount of pressure could indicate a risk for glaucoma.
  5. Retinoscopy And Refraction Tests
    If your optometrist decides you need corrective lenses, she will probably conduct a retinoscopy test and a refraction test. The retinoscopy test allows the doctor to estimate your eyeglasses prescription. The lights will be dimmed, and the doctor will shine a small light at your face while flipping lenses in front of your eyes. This test is especially useful for patients such as small children who have difficulty giving feedback to the doctor.

    The refraction test is used to determine your exact prescription. Your doctor will have you look at a row of letters and then use a machine to give you a series of lens choices. She’ll ask if the new lenses make the letters clearer or blurrier. This test lets the doctor find the exact combination of lenses to correct your vision.

If you are not sure if you need an eye exam, you may want to talk to your eye doctor about when to schedule your next appointment. Before you have your eye exam, you’ll want to see what savings and benefits your vision insurance plan may provide you. If you don’t have coverage, learn more about VSP Individual Vision Plans. With VSP, you may find a plan that not only provides you affordable vision coverage, but also gives you access to the largest network of independent eye doctors.

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