Do I Need an Eye Exam Every Year?

For many people, the end of the year usually means dealing with holiday plans, gifts, gift returns, and starting that list of New Year’s resolutions. There’s a lot to do, and it may be tempting to take a few shortcuts, like skipping your annual eye exam, or just thinking you can make do with online glasses or drugstore readers.

But avoiding the yearly trip to the eye doc is a big mistake.

Why? Because your eyes have to deal with more stresses and threats to their health than ever. Think about all the developments of the past century; many of us are driving, looking at smartphones, and staring at computer monitors for work and TV monitors for leisure. And on and on.

Since we depend on our eyes to do so much, it makes sense to continually make sure they’re up to the challenge—and book a routine comprehensive eye exam before the year is in the rear-view mirror.

Why you should go make that appointment

Highlighting the importance of yearly eye exams, here are some of the biggest threats to your eye health, according to the American Refractive Surgery Council—:1

1. Dry eyes, whose symptoms include burning, irritation, redness, and even blurry vision. True, you can use eye drops, such as Rohto® Digi Eye®, for dry eye symptoms, but it’s good to let an eye doctor know about them, too. If left untreated, dry eyes can damage your cornea, so you don’t want to ignore them. Treatment options have significantly advanced in recent years, so find out what’s available from the doc.

2. Digital eye strain, which can result in dry eye symptoms. Every day, we interact with devices that cause digital eye strain; smartphones, tablets, desktop monitors, game consoles, TV sets, and more. Staring at all these devices for hours can lead to tired, dry, irritated eyes, because we don’t blink as frequently as we do normally, and the tear film that usually lubricates eyes dries up. Use Rohto® Digi Eye® eye drops for symptoms of digital eye strain, and let your eye doc know about your condition, so you can benefit from other treatments.

3. Sun damage, which is caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, and can lead to vision problems, including macular degeneration and cataracts. Always be sure to wear UV-blocking sunglasses (preferably UV 400) whenever you’re outside. Your eye doc can check to see if your eyes have been affected by too much sun.

4. Allergies, which can result from high pollen and allergen counts, and cause burning, itching, and redness. An eye doc can help you manage these symptoms, prescribe medication, and make sure you aren’t damaging your eyes by rubbing them too much.

5. Vision correction, which can monitor and treat conditions including nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. This is the most common reason for people to have an eye exam. If you wear glasses, your eye doc can check your vision, make sure your current prescription is correct, and update it if needed. If you wear contact lenses, your eyes can be susceptible to dry eye, since contacts reduce the amount of oxygen at the surface of the eye, and reduce lubrication. Your eye doc can make sure everything’s working correctly.

The importance of yearly eye exams

1. Eye exams can detect other health problems, since the blood vessels in the eye can be observed in their natural state. According to AARP2, an eye exam can detect high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disorder, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and more—sometimes before any symptoms have manifested.
"An eye exam is one of the few exams where, without doing blood tests, invasive imaging or surgery, we can actually look inside the body,” says Brian Stagg, M.D., an ophthalmologist and retina specialist at the University of Utah's John A. Moran Eye Center. “I can see blood vessels and nerve tissue that actually runs all the way to the brain.”3

2. Eye care technology is changing—and improving rapidly, with new breakthroughs in treatment for glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts, and more.4 By getting that eye exam, you benefit from the latest eye care advances now—and in the future.

3. Better vision means safer living, especially for older people, who are susceptible to catastrophic falls. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among adults age 65 and older.”5 Problems with vision and depth perception can increase the likelihood of falling, so an eye exam is critical to ensure safety and well-being.

What to expect during your eye exam

From the Optometrist Network6, here are some tests that your eye doctor may perform during your eye exam:

• Preliminary Tests, which measure peripheral vision, depth perception, color vision, eye muscle movements, and how your pupils react to light.

• Visual Acuity, which is measured as ‘20/X’, (for example, 20/20 vision)

• Optical prescription,where your prescription is updated, if needed, to improve your eyesight

• Eye Focusing, which tests how well your eyes move, focus, and work together

• Digital Retinal Image, a digital recording of retinal health

• Eye pressure test (IOP), which test for glaucoma and corneal disease, and is performed with a short burst of air

• Slit-lamp, which gives your eye doctor a magnified view of the many different structures at the front of the eye and inside, such as the cornea, pupil, iris, tear ducts, lens and retina. The area surrounding the eyes such as the eyelids and the adjacent periorbital skin, can also be examined with this test.

• Ophthalmoscopy, which uses a bright, hand-held light to assess the health of the back of the eyes, and can detect cataracts, retinal detachment, glaucoma, and macular degeneration.

Still asking “do I need an eye exam every year?” Ask your doc to be sure. Otherwise, go ahead and book that appointment!