August is National Eye Exam month and in observance of the holiday it’s important to visit your eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam. The Vision Council of America states that 12.2 million Americans require some sort of vision correction but don’t use any and 48% of parents with children under the age of 12 have never taken their children to an eye care professional.
“An eye exam is so important because it can tell your doctor about your overall health,” affirms Dr. Edward Kondrot, the world’s leading ophthalmologist and founder of Healing the Eye & Wellness Center.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmologists, the frequency of eye exams is dependent on an individual’s age, race, past ocular history, medical history, family history of eye disease, and types of symptoms or ocular findings encountered. Below you’ll find general guidelines on how often you should visit the eye doctor:
Children 5 years and younger: For children under 3, your pediatrician will likely look for the most common eye problems — lazy eye, crossed eyes or turned-out eyes. Depending on your child’s willingness to cooperate, his or her first more comprehensive eye exam should be done between the ages of 3 and 5.
School-age children/adolescents: Have your child’s vision checked before he or she enters first grade. If your child has no symptoms of vision problems and you don’t have a family history of vision problems, have your child’s vision rechecked every two years. If your child does have vision problems or a family history of vision problems, have your child’s vision rechecked as advised by your eye doctor.
Adults: In general, if you’re healthy and have no symptoms of vision problems, you should have your vision checked every five to 10 years in your 20s and 30s. Between ages 40 and 65, have your vision checked every two to four years. After age 65, get your eyes checked every one to two years. If you wear glasses, have a family history of eye disease or have a chronic disease that puts you at greater risk of eye disease, such as diabetes, have your eyes checked more frequently.
Five reasons to get an eye exam by an eye doctor:
Save a Headache: If you have been having unexplained, constant headaches, your solution could be visiting your ophthalmologist. An ophthalmologist can pinpoint the problem of your headaches.
Perform Well in School: One out of every four children has vision problems; a common reason children fall behind in school is poor, undetected vision. Taking your children to the optometrist can detect an eyesight problem that can contribute to learning and reading difficulties.
Determine Prescription: Your eyes change over time. An eye doctor can determine if you need eyeglasses or contacts, or if you need a stronger prescription to reduce eyestrain and increase your visibility.
Detect Eye Conditions: An ophthalmologist is able to spot the early onset signs of diabetes, high blood pressure, glaucoma and high cholesterol just by looking at the eye.
Prevent Conditions: Many serious eye diseases often have no symptoms. An eye doctor will see the early signs of diseases or cataracts. Early detection is important to prevent serious damage.
What you can do to take care of your eyes:
The best thing you can do for your eyes is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eat sensibly, including eating lots of leafy green vegetables; exercise; get plenty of sleep; and don’t smoke. I also recommend that people wear sunglasses if they’re going to be outside for an extended period of time. Prolonged sun exposure can increase the risk of serious eye conditions, such as macular degeneration and cataracts. In general, if you will be outside long enough to need sunscreen, you also should wear sunglasses.
Wear protective eyewear if you’re participating in high risk activities, including certain sports or any activity where debris or particles could fly into your eyes unexpectedly, such as lawn work (mowing, weed-whacking), hammering, or working on your car.
Contact lens wearers should be sure to follow the instructions from your eye care provider about how long you should wear your lenses. Remember to switch your case and solution at recommended intervals.
Other considerations about eye health:
Diabetes: If you have diabetes, it’s extremely important to have an eye exam at least once per year. Diabetic eye disease can cause severe vision loss or even blindness; however, it often can be treated before vision loss occurs.
Medications: Also be aware that certain medications can impact your eye health. For example, prolonged use of steroids can cause cataracts and glaucoma. This includes people who take inhaled steroids for asthma or steroid nasal sprays for allergies. Though only a small portion of patients on steroids may develop eye problems, it’s important to monitor your eye health to avoid problems. You also should alert your ophthalmologist about medications you’re taking.
Glaucoma: This serious eye condition, in which increased pressure in the eyes can damage the optic nerve, is more common than most people realize. In the US, it’s estimated that 2.2 million people suffer from this disease. Though the incidence increases as people age, it also can affect the young. It’s important to begin eye exams early in adulthood, because most patients with glaucoma won’t have symptoms until they have lost a significant amount of vision. Early diagnosis also is important because glaucoma is very treatable. Most patients respond to treatment with medication to the eyes.
Macular degeneration: One of the more common causes of vision loss as we age, macular degeneration, also has treatment options. The progression of dry macular degeneration may be slowed by taking certain vitamins. Wet macular degeneration, which typically has a more sudden onset of vision change, can be treated with an injection of medication into the eye.