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Categories > Vision > Eye care

Looking sharp
How often
What to expect
20/20 vision
Fight the fear


Don’t skip your eye exam if …
Don’t skip your eye exam if …

  • you’re nearsighted
  • you’re African-American
  • you have diabetes
  • you’ve had an eye injury
  • you have a family history of glaucoma

And see your ophthalmologist immediately if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • a sudden burst of sparks or flashing lights
  • a shower of floaters—small specks, spots, strings or squiggles that float across your visual field
  • sudden difficulty seeing
  • blurred vision

Take your eyesight for granted? It sure is easy to do. Yet the day will come when focusing on the printed word will be a challenge. Luckily, most vision problems are easy to correct. As for more serious disorders, regular checkups can ensure early detection and timely treatment.

How often

Eye exams are not just for people who wear glasses. By age 40, everyone should have had their eyes checked at least once. From 40 to 64, an exam is advisable every two to four years. And those 65 and older should have a yearly checkup. (People with special conditions may need more frequent visits.)

As a person gets older, regular exams are vital to monitor for age-related disorders, such as cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma. The latter two conditions usually have no symptoms until vision is severely affected. By that time, it may be too late.

What to expect

During your exam, you’ll be asked for your family and personal medical history. Your ophthalmologist will want to know if you have diabetes or high blood pressure, both of which may affect vision. Now is also the time to discuss any complaints.

After checking your lids and lashes, your doctor may apply drops to dilate your pupils and use a light called an ophthalmoscope to examine the inside of your eye. The condition of the tissues and vessels within the eye can reveal the presence of diabetes, tumors, circulatory disorders and high blood pressure as well as retinal detachment and macular degeneration.

To test the movement of your eyes, your ophthalmologist may ask you to follow his or her hands. And to assess your peripheral vision, he or she may move an object in and out of your visual field.

Tonometry, a painless test, helps your ophthalmologist check for glaucoma by measuring the pressure within your eyeball. Glaucoma occurs when fluid buildup within the eye puts prolonged pressure on the optic nerve.

20/20 vision

One of the tools your ophthalmologist will use to find out if you need corrective lenses is the familiar Snellen chart. You will be asked to read letters on the chart from a distance of 20 feet. You have 20/20 vision if you can read the letters that people with perfect eyesight can read from 20 feet away. But if at 20 feet, you can only read the letters that people with perfect eyesight can read from, say, 30 feet, you are said to have 20/30 vision.

Fight the fear

One of the primary reasons people skip eye exams? Ironically, it’s fear that a problem will be discovered. If you value your vision, it’s a fear worth fighting.