Adult Eye Care
All adults should have eye exams on a regular basis to check for eye health problems. More than just checking your vision, regular eye exams help detect glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts and diabetic retinopathy among other health problems.
Eye examinations should take place as follows:
- By age four - All children should have their eyes checked by age four. If there is family history of childhood vision problems, or if the child has a wandering, crossed, or other eye problem, his or her eyes should be checked earlier.
- Before age 20 - As recommended by a pediatrician or other doctor.
- Between 20 and 40 - Every five years, unless you experience any problems such as visual changes, pain, flashes of light, new floaters or tearing, or if you have an eye injury.
- Between 40 and 64 - Every two to four years.
- Over 65 - Every one to two years.
African-Americans are at greater risk for glaucoma, and should have eye examinations every three to five years before age 40 and every two years after age 40.
People with diabetes are at risk for several eye disorders, including diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and cataracts, and should have eye examinations every year.
What to Expect at Your Eye Exam
During an eye exam, an eye doctor reviews your medical history and completes a series of tests to determine the health of your eyes. The exam will evaluate both your vision and the health of your eyes. If you wear prescription glasses or contacts, bring them to your appointment along with a pair of sunglasses for the trip home in case your doctor needs to dilate your pupils.
Here are some routine tests that your doctor may do to assess your vision and eye health:
This test may be used to help determine your prescription. In retinoscopy, you will be given a large target to focus on, typically a chart with letters decreasing in size from top to bottom, while a small light is directed at your eye.
This determines your exact vision prescription. During this test, the doctor puts an instrument called a phoropter in front of your eyes and shows you a series of lens choices. Refraction determines your level of farsightedness, nearsightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia.
During a cover test, the eye doctor will have you focus on a small object at distance and will then cover each of your eyes alternately while you stare at the target. This indicates how your eyes work together and can help detect strabismus (eye misalignment), or amblyopia and other vision issues.
The slit lamp is used to examine the health of many of the structures of your eyes, inside and out. With your chin on the chin rest, the doctor will shine the lamp into your eye. This procedure can help detect cataracts, corneal ulcers, diabetic eye disease, macular degeneration and other conditions.
This test measures the pressure inside your eye. The most common glaucoma test is the "puff-of-air" test, technically known as the non-contact tonometer. The doctor may also want to look at the optic nerve inside the eye to determine if you have glaucoma.
This test checks for possible blind spots in your peripheral vision.
Dilating drops make the pupils of your eyes bigger, allowing your doctor to get a better view into the internal structures of the eye. Once dilated, your eyes will be very sensitive to light. Bringing sunglasses with you to your appointment can make your trip home more comfortable. It may also make your vision blurry. Most people are comfortable driving while their eyes are dilated, but many people arrange other transportation.