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.
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 eyes will continue to develop until he or she reaches about 7-years-old. At this age the eyes have reached full maturity and it is much more difficult to correct permanent vision problems that could have been avoided.
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 more frequently.
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:
• Children who were born prematurely
• People with a family history of glaucoma or congenital eye conditions such as cataracts
• People with AIDS/HIV
• People with diabetes
• People who’ve had previous eye trauma or surgery (Source: University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center)
So 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. (Source: All About Vision)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Talk to your eye doctor about when to schedule your next appointment and what to expect. Companies such as VSP Direct offer affordable vision plans for individuals who make regular visits, so you don’t have to worry about the cost of having your eyes checked.