There are some things in life that naturally end up higher on your priority list, like getting the car inspected or changing the batteries in the smoke alarm. Granted, those things typically have some urgency behind them, since you can’t very well drive a car with outdated tags, and the smoke alarm has a very shrill way of grabbing your attention when the batteries are low on juice.
But there are also plenty of things that ought to get the same level of urgency behind them. Getting an eye exam is one of those things.
It shouldn’t be an afterthought, but it is. Even though most people can stay on top of their eye health with just one visit a year to the eye doctor, many men and women wind up going to an ophthalmologist or optometrist only when they think something’s wrong with their vision.
Such is human nature. But a comprehensive eye exam and diagnostic testing takes only a couple of hours, and it may well prevent serious vision problems. If you have light eyes like me or a history of eye problems in your family, it’s all the more important. It should be part of everyone’s preventive healthcare routine — especially for individuals older than 50, because their vision changes more dramatically over a 12-month period. Case in point: cataracts.
“Cataracts get worse over time,” says Dr. Patrick Aiello, an ophthalmologist who offers laser cataract surgery at his practice in Yuma, Arizona. “In the early stages, many cataract patients find that they can remedy their symptoms with glasses. But patients with more advanced cataracts may wish to correct their vision with surgery.”
Diagnosing possible cataracts is just one of the many reasons eye exams matter. There are also several signals that it’s time to schedule an appointment with your eye doctor as soon as possible:
- Having red, dry, itchy eyes, or seeing spots, light flashes, or floaters.
- Having diabetes or any other health condition that can affect your vision. People with a family history of diabetes or glaucoma should get their eyes checked more often after age 50.
- Problems seeing street signs or other things at night.
- Experiencing eye strain, headaches, or blurry vision after spending extended time viewing a computer screen.
- Experiencing motion sickness or dizziness when focusing on an object in motion.
- Holding a newspaper or book farther away from your face, or squinting to read clearly.
- Noticing sudden vision changes, especially after suffering head trauma.
One more reason it’s probably a good idea to schedule an eye exam: You can’t remember the last time you had your eyes checked. If that’s the case, chances are pretty good it’s been more than a year. It’s best not to wait until you’re experience any of the 7 signs above.
A routine eye exam can identify a number of vision-related diseases in addition to cataracts, such as dry eyes, macular degeneration, and retinal detachments. But it can also detect disease processes that can lead to the diagnosis of diabetes or tumors before other symptoms show up. This helps catch the disease earlier, which is why eye exams are a great way to assess the overall health of your body.
Plus: glasses are IN!