There are many reasons to get regular eye exams. They are very effective at detecting diseases in their early stages. They can help people enjoy better vision throughout their lives.
Regular eye exams can slow down the rate of age-related vision loss, and improvements in technology can do more than was possible in the past. After a year in quarantine and looking at devices more, an eye exam can help with dry eyes and digital eye strain.
The Necessity of Eye Exams
Eye exams are often neglected until a person notices something wrong with their eyesight, but regular visits to the optometrist can make the difference between a lifetime of good vision and having to treat vision problems after they’ve developed. Doctors recommend regular eye exams for a variety of reasons.
1. Detecting Diseases
Even if you have good vision, and you don’t need any kind of corrective lenses, you should still get your eyes regularly looked at by an optometrist. There are diseases which, if left untreated, can lead to a loss of vision. These diseases might not have any warning signs. The only chance for some diseases to be detected is during a dilated eye exam.
For example, cataracts grow slowly. Patients often do not notice the deterioration of their vision until a significant amount of their vision has already been lost. Similarly, patients with diabetic retinopathy often do not experience symptoms in the early stages of the disease, when it is at its most treatable.
Eye exams can pick up other health problems. Even some general health concerns will show up on an eye exam before any other form of checkup. This is because the eye is the only site in the body where blood vessels can be viewed in their natural state, without any kind of invasive surgical procedure.
Certain conditions, like high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, and diabetes, cause changes in the blood vessels of the eye or fluctuations in vision. Multiple sclerosis and other neurological diseases can be detected by a doctor noticing changes in the eye and the optic nerve. Optometrists know that a number of conditions, such as lupus and leukemia, can show their signs in eye exams before other, more noticeable symptoms develop.
For these reasons, patients are encouraged to schedule their eye exams on a regular basis. Checking the eyes can be the catalyst that leads to a lifesaving diagnosis.
2. Maintaining Quality of Life
Regular eye exams can arrest the onset of poor vision, and a loss of vision can be incredibly disruptive. People experience depression when it becomes difficult to see in normal conditions; car accidents become much more likely; and elderly people are much more at risk for a fall.
Scheduled visits to an optometrist can pick up vision problems like reduced contrast sensitivity, a loss of depth perception, and reduced field of vision, all of which can affect the ability to see steps, read signs, or notice other environmental hazards. Regular eye exams not only help with overall vision, but they can help to keep you simply moving around and going about your day-to-day business.
While regular eye exams are beneficial in adulthood and later in life, they can also be very helpful to children. Research has suggested that 80 percent of learning comes through the eyes. Decreased vision affects everything from academic success and athletic ability to interpersonal communication and relationships. If a child has poor eyesight, correcting it can make a big difference in their overall development.
3. Growing Old
No matter how healthy a person’s eyes may be, vision inescapably gets worse with age. Some age-related conditions may cause a drastic loss of vision, but for many people, the effects are almost imperceptible. This can be a challenging issue to face, and many will put off going to an optometrist until something goes wrong. They couldn’t read the writing on a sign, or they got into an accident because they couldn’t drive properly in the dark.
It is difficult to acknowledge that one cause for deterioration of eyesight is simply advancing age, but an optometrist can intervene early enough to prescribe stronger glasses, lifestyle changes, or other remedies to slow the onset of age-related vision loss. However, this intervention will not happen if optometrist visits are few and far between, so yearly regular eye exams are the way to go.
4. Changing Technology
Another reason to have regular eye exams is that the technology for conducting eye exams, and diagnosing conditions, is constantly changing. It was only a matter of a few years ago that a patient with wet macular degeneration would have been at risk for losing most, or even all, of their vision. Now, medication can protect their eyesight to a greater degree than was possible in the past.
Similarly, many patients who have had cataract surgery can now benefit from lens implants. They may never have to wear glasses or have any other form of corrective eyewear again.
Staying in touch with your optometrist will keep you apprised of new developments in optometric care that can help you with an eye condition or protect you from the onset of one.
5. Pandemic-Related Eye Strain
A more timely reason to have a regular eye exam is that during the COVID-19 pandemic, people spent more time on their phones and tablets, and in Zoom meetings, than ever before. While this did mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, it led to what researchers called an epidemic of dry eye syndrome and digital eye strain.
It was difficult to schedule eye exams during the pandemic, but with increased vaccination rates and the national curve flattening, many optometrists have reopened their clinics for in-person visits, taking care to regularly sanitize all their surfaces and equipment, and practice social distancing as much as possible, so patients can feel safe and protected while getting what might be their first eye exam in months.
The dwindling of the pandemic is a great reason to resume regular eye exams. If continual exposure to computer screens during 2020 caused any problems, your optometrist can help you slow your vision loss with corrective lenses, eye drops, and suggested lifestyle changes.
Questions About Insurance
While vision insurance policies differ across providers, some policies do offer coverage for eye exams. Vision coverage is considered an add-on to standard health insurance, so there are typically some additional costs involved.
Insurance companies have taken to creating two categories for visits to an optometrist’s office: medical visits and routine visits. Both types of visits are still thought of as full eye exams, with the same kind of care. Where they differ is the reason for the visit: Routine visits look for signs of common vision conditions, while medical visits will look for conjunctivitis, glaucoma, cataracts, or age-related macular degeneration — serious conditions that might need surgery.
Different health insurance plans will have their own policies about coverage for routine visits compared to coverage for medical visits. For routine visits, most plans contain some coverage for glasses and contact lenses. Other plans might cover only a certain number of yearly routine exams.
The entirety of the visit may be covered or only a portion of it. When it comes to medical visits, most insurers will cover those exams if there is evidence or reasonable suspicion of an eye health problem.
The Best Approach
Vision can be deceptive. Even a 20/20 vision test and no problems with day-to-day vision can mask the development of eye problems down the road. For this reason, many people don’t think about going to an optometrist until something significant happens to their eyes or their vision.
The best approach is to get regular eye exams annually. This ensures you’ll stay on top of any potential problems as they arise.
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Eye Exam — Not Just Seeing Well, but Being Well. Corporate Wellness.
Aging and Your Eyes. (January 2017). National Institute on Aging.
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Digital Eye Strain Epidemic Amid COVID-19 Pandemic – A Cross-Sectional Survey. (December 2020). Ophthalmic Epidemiology.