dentists will tell you that you should have a dental exam every six months, but what about eye exams? Eye health is a little different than dental health, but preventative care is still a good idea, even when you don’t need a new prescription for your glasses or contacts. The human eye is incredibly complex and there are a lot of different ways something could go wrong. Regular eye appointments are a crucial way to check in and make sure everything looks good.
What Do We Mean by “Regular Eye Exam”?
The ideal frequency of eye exams will depend on a patient’s age and risk factors. We recommend that parents bring children in for their first eye exam at around six months of age, again around their third birthday, and once more before first grade. These early childhood eye exams are essential for catching, diagnosing, and treating any vision problems they may have before they have a chance to interfere with their learning. After that, in most cases we would recommend an eye exam every other year up until age 60. For patients age 60 and up, we’d like to see you on a yearly basis. However, your case might be different, and we can determine how often to set those appointments when we see you!
What Are Eye Disease Risk Factors?
People with at-risk vision should be extra careful and come in for eye exams more frequently, but what does it mean to have “at-risk” vision? Certain things like family history of glaucoma or macular degeneration, or even family history of diabetes or hypertension can be risk factors for vision problems. Other risk factors include prescription medications that cause dry eye as a side effect. It’s important to monitor these kinds of side effects so that they don’t result in eye infections or serious discomfort. Even contact lenses can increase the risk of eye infections. A major risk factor that we can avoid is a smoking habit. Smoking dramatically increases the risk of diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration.
When Shouldn’t I Wait for My Regular Appointment?
Sticking to your recommended eye exam schedule is usually going to be enough to manage any risk factors you have, but problems can still pop up in between your appointments. If you begin to notice any changes to your vision, don’t just wait months or longer to come see us! Come in sooner if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms:
Blurrier vision. This could simply mean you need an updated glasses prescription.
Frequent headaches. These are connected to eye issues more often than you might think, like digital eye strain.
Sudden increase in floaters or bright flashes. These are symptoms of retinal detachment, which can cause permanent blindness if it isn’t treated right away. Another symptom is loss of peripheral vision.
Newfound sensitivity to light. Could indicate an eye infection.
Difficulty driving at night or loss of night vision. Can be a sign of vision loss. Sometimes a stronger prescription can correct the problem, but it might be a symptom of an eye disease.
It’s not always easy to remember something that only comes around every other year, but we encourage all our patients to make their recommended eye exam schedule a priority. If you can’t remember when your last one was, then we can help you start your new eye appointment today.