Eye Health at Every Age
The Importance of Routine Eye care
Periodic eye examinations are an important part of routine preventive health care. Many eye and vision conditions present no obvious symptoms. Therefore, individuals are often unaware that a problem exists. Early diagnosis and treatment are important for maintaining good vision and, when possible, preventing permanent vision loss.
The need for and frequency of eye examinations vary with age, race, medical history, family history, occupation and other factors. Individuals with ocular signs or symptoms require prompt examination. In addition, the presence of certain risk factors may necessitate more frequent evaluations based on professional judgment. The following are the recommendations for regular eye care.Infants and Children
Newborns are typically screened at birth for congenital eye disorders and disease. In addition, all infants should receive an evaluation for vision problems and eye disease by a doctor of optometry by 6 months of age or sooner if abnormalities or risk factors are present. Early diagnosis and treatment are important to assure proper visual development, to prevent vision loss due to eye disease and to manage hereditary or congenital eye disorders such as lazy eye or crossed eyes.
In the absence of specific problems or symptoms, re-examinations at age 3 and prior to entry into school are recommended. These examinations provide the opportunity to evaluate the level of a child's visual development and can provide early diagnosis and intervention to prevent visual impairment due to various conditions.
At Risk: Infants born prematurely, with low birth weight, or whose mother had rubella, venereal disease, AIDS-related infection or a history of substance abuse or other medical problems during pregnancy are at a particularly high risk for the development of eye and vision problems. Also, the presence of high refractive error or a family history of eye disease, crossed eyes or congenital eye disorders places infants and children at risk.
Vision may change frequently during the school years. The most common problems are due to the development and progression of nearsightedness. In addition, the existence of eye focusing and/or eye coordination problems may affect school performance. Periodic examinations are recommended.
At Risk: Children failing to progress educationally or exhibiting reading and/or learning disabilities should receive an optometric examination as part of a multidisciplinary evaluation.
During the adult years, the increased visual demands of our technological society bring about the need for regular optometric care. While the incidence of ocular disease is low for young adults, vocational and recreational visual demands are significant. To maintain visual efficiency, productivity, and optimum eye health, periodic examinations are recommended.
Adults, beginning in their early to mid-40s, can experience changes in their ability to see clearly at close distances. This normal aging change in the eye's focusing ability will continue during the 40s and 50s. In addition, increases in the incidence of eye health problems occur during these years. Therefore, periodic eye examinations are recommended.
At Risk: Individuals diagnosed with diabetes or hypertension, or who have a family history of glaucoma, particularly African Americans, those who work in highly visually demanding or eye hazardous occupations, those taking certain systemic medications with ocular side effects or those with other health concerns or conditions.
Individuals age 61 or older have an increasing risk for the development of cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration and other sight threatening or visually disabling eye conditions as well as systemic health conditions. Therefore, annual eye examinations are recommended.
At Risk: Individuals diagnosed with diabetes or hypertension, or who have a family history of glaucoma or cataracts, and those taking systemic medications with ocular side effects or those with other health concerns or conditions.
Getting a Thorough Eye Exam
1. How frequently should you have an eye exam?
Every 2-3 years. However, individuals with a family history of glaucoma and those with diabetes or high blood pressure should have their eyes examined more frequently. Check with your doctor to determine an exam frequency that is right for you.
Regular exams are important for your health as well as your vision. Some eye diseases do not have immediate symptoms and may only be detected early through regular examinations. In addition to early detection of vision disorders such as cataracts and glaucoma, eye exams can also detect such health disorders as high blood pressure, diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
The American Optometric Association recommends using the following frequency guidelines:
Eye Exam Guidelines
AGE 0-5 First exam by 6 months of age, then again at 3 years of age.
AGE 6-18 Before first grade and every year thereafter.
AGE 19-40 Every 2-3 years.
AGE 41-60 Every 2 years.
Over 61 Annually.
2. Choosing the right eye care provider.
It's important to know who your eye care providers are and what they are trained to do; the terminology can be confusing.
Ophthalmologist - An Ophthalmologist is a medical doctor specializing in the eye who is trained to examine, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of the visual system, including all types of surgical procedures. An Ophthalmologist has completed a four-year undergraduate program, four years of medical school, and a minimum of three years in Ophthalmology training.
Optometrist - An Optometrist is trained to examine, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of the visual system. An Optometrist has completed a four-year undergraduate program along with four additional years of Doctor of Optometry education and is licensed to practice by a state board.