May is Healthy Vision Month!Most of us realize that having an eye exam is an important part of staying healthy. However, it can be one of those appointments that’s easy to keep putting off. It’s important to know when you and your family members should get eye exams and what tests should be included.
During each stage of life, the eye experiences unique needs and concerns. Learn about common eye issues at each stage of life by reviewing the sections below. Find out what’s included in an eye exam and learn why it’s a necessary part of ensuring a lifetime of good health.
Ages and Stages of Eye Exams
Childhood – We see ages twelve and up.
Regular vision screenings are vital for children. Your pediatrician will perform a basic eye exam soon after your child’s birth and during annual well-child appointments. Your child’s school may also offer regular vision screenings.
Children’s eyes grow and change quickly from birth through adolescence. Around three months of age, a baby should be able to focus on and follow an object dangled in front of them. Before this time, it can be normal to notice your baby’s eyes crossing or drifting to the side.
By five months, most babies can see in three dimensions and have developed depth perception. During the toddler years, your child may need an eye exam if their eyes appear misaligned or they turn their head to look at something in front of them.
During the school years, colorblindness may become evident. It is most common in boys. Digital eye strain is becoming ever more common in this age group and may be connected to nearsightedness. If your child struggles to read or quickly loses interest in activities that strain the eyes, schedule an eye exam.
Teenagers often complain of digital eye strain. They must guard against sports-related eye injuries by wearing protective gear when playing baseball, hockey or other activities that may injure the eye. Teenagers who wear contact lenses must be taught proper contact lens hygiene and care.
Adulthood: Age 20 to 60
The adult years are the time to schedule a complete eye exam if you’ve never had one. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends having this baseline exam at the age of 40 because this is the time that age-related vision changes or eye diseases begin to appear. Your ophthalmologist will decide how often you need follow-up eye exams based on the results of this appointment.
If you have high blood pressure, diabetes or a family history of eye disease, you shouldn’t wait until age 40 to see an ophthalmologist. You may be able to avoid developing a significant vision problem by including regular eye exams as part of your overall self-care plan.
Older Adults: Age 60 and Beyond
After age 60, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends having a complete eye exam every year or two. These exams are necessary to check for common age-related eye problems including:
- Macular degeneration
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Dry eye
- Retinal detachment
- Poor night/driving vision
What to Expect During Your Eye Exam
Many people—of all ages—aren’t sure what to expect when they make an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam. However, most people find the experience to be painless and educational. Your eye doctor will use a variety of tests to thoroughly examine your eyes. Most eye exams are completed in under an hour, although yours might take a bit longer if you need additional testing.
Common eye exam procedures include:
Visual acuity tests: These tests measure the sharpness of your vision by having you read letters on a projected eye chart (for distance vision) and a hand-held acuity chart (for near vision).
Cover test: This simple test determines how well your eyes work together. It involves focusing on an object with one eye covered and is repeated on both eyes.
Color blindness test: The most common tool for testing color vision is the Ishihara Color Vision Test. It involves looking at a series of images with colored dots. If you have normal color vision, you should be able to see a number hidden within the dots.
Eye movement (ocular motility) test: Your ophthalmologist will ask you to hold your head still and follow a hand-held target by only moving your eyes. He may test both smooth eye movements and quick eye movements.
Depth perception (stereopsis) test: For this exam, you will wear 3D glasses and view a booklet of test patterns. If you can accurately state which circle in the pattern appears closest to you, your depth perception is good.
Retinoscopy: The lights will be dimmed for this test that provides information about your eyeglasses prescription. As you stare at the big “E” on the eye chart, the doctor will shine a light at your eye and flip lenses to determine the one that best corrects your vision.
Refraction: This test determines your exact eyeglass prescription. You will look through a series of lens choices on an instrument called a phoropter until you find the one that looks clearest. Your doctor may use an autorefractor or an aberrometer to automatically determine your eyeglass prescription.
Slit lamp exam: While you sit in front of a binocular microscope, your doctor will examine your cornea, iris and other eye structures under high magnification.
Glaucoma test: Some people may find the “puff of air” test slightly uncomfortable, but it only lasts a second. The machine measures your eyes’ resistance to the puff of air, providing valuable insight into the pressure inside your eyes.
Pupil dilation: If your doctor needs a better view of your eyes’ internal structures, your eyes may be dilated. Eyedrops are applied to make the pupils larger and take about 20 to 30 minutes to work. Once they are properly dilated, you will notice a greater sensitivity to light and have difficulty focusing up close. You will need to wear dark sunglasses on the way home to protect your eyes, as it takes several hours for the drops to wear off.
Visual field test: This procedure tests your peripheral or side vision, to see if you have blind spots that can be indicative of glaucoma or other eye diseases.
If it is determined that you need corrective lenses or a different lens prescription, you will be fitted for new contacts or eyeglasses. In some cases, you may need additional tests depending on the findings from the procedures listed above. You may also be referred to a retinal specialist or another type of eye doctor for additional testing.
Allied Eye is Here for You!
At Allied Eye, we are taking every precaution possible to keep our patients and staff safe during this COVID-19 pandemic. We are still open to treat eye emergencies and eye injuries—and we now offer telemedicine. Please visit our COVID-19 page for updated information, including current hours of operation and how to access telemedicine services.