You’ve got your drug store reading glasses. You can buy eye drops, ointments and eye washes over the counter to clear up any foreign objects, chlorine, pollen and other irritants. If you’re able to see, is over-the-counter eye care all you need?
The answer is – it depends, but probably not.
If you have perfect 20-20 vision, congratulations. You won’t be spending much on eye care and you probably don’t have to frequently visit the ophthalmologist. But even then, your vision is one of your most important senses. A thorough eye exam not only can detect changes in your vision, but also can detect changes in overall health. Eye exams can serve as a preventative to ensure overall wellness. An eye exam can help your doctor detect diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
Experts recommend you have an eye exam every year. In addition to just checking your eyes, the exams screen for glaucoma, cataracts, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer.
Children should have their first eye exam at six months, then again as a toddler. After those initial exams, children should have their eyes examined at least every two years. Keep in mind that although children receive a basic eye exam at school, these tests do not cover problems on eye coordination, focusing, and near vision, so it’s important to get checked.
Healthy individuals 18-40 with good eyesight need to visit the ophthalmologist at least every ten years. However, experts recommend every two years.
As we age, we might experience vision changes more frequently. Beginning in the forties, people tend to experience presbyopia, which is a hardening of the lenses in the eye that makes it difficult to focus on reading or close work. Initially, individuals may be able to simply adjust the distance of their reading material by holding it closer or farther away. However, eventually, as the presbyopia progresses, reading glasses or multi-focal contact lenses may be necessary.
More frequent exams can catch cataracts, glaucoma or macular degeneration before they become a big problem. Eye care specialists say that glaucoma is one disease that is easy to monitor and the benefits of catching it early make a big difference.
Individuals with diabetes or a family history of glaucoma or cataracts should go more often. For those who wear contact lenses, many times insurance companies won’t cover new lenses without a recent exam – generally within the last year. Also, for those who wear prescription glasses, retailers will generally not accept a prescription that is expired and/or is not from within the last two years.
If you haven’t had your eyes checked since those days back in elementary school where you had to read back the letters on the chart, don’t fret. A visit to an optometrist or ophthalmologist is easy to make, won’t take long and can have a lasting impact on your health and your well-being.