Routine eye exams are important — regardless of your age or your physical health.
During a comprehensive eye exam, your eye doctor does much more than just determine your prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses. He or she will also check your eyes for common eye diseases, assess how your eyes work together as a team and evaluate your eyes as an indicator of your overall health.
Also, eye doctors often are the first health care professionals to detect chronic systemic diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes. (See sidebar below.)
Who Should Get Their Eyes Examined?
Eye examinations are an important part of health maintenance for everyone. Adults should have their eyes tested to keep their prescriptions current and to check for early signs of eye disease.
Children's eye exams are important to ensure normal vision development.
Eye exams for children play an important role in ensuring normal vision development and academic achievement of all kids.
Vision is closely linked to the learning process. Children with undetected vision problems often will have trouble with their schoolwork. Many times, children will not complain of vision problems simply because they don't know what "normal" vision looks like.
If your child is performing poorly at school, be sure to have his or her eyes examined by an eye doctor who specializes in children's vision to rule out an underlying visual cause.
What Is the Eye Doctor Checking for?
In addition to evaluating your eyes for glasses and contacts, your eye doctor will check your eyes for eye diseases and other problems that could lead to vision loss. Here are some examples of the conditions that your eye doctor will be looking for:
Refractive error. This refers to nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. Refractive errors are corrected with eyeglasses, contacts or refractive surgery.
Amblyopia. This occurs when the eyes are turned or when one eye has a much different prescription than the other. The brain will "shut off" the image from the turned or blurry eye. Left untreated, amblyopia can stunt the visual development of the affected eye, resulting in permanent vision impairment. Amblyopia is often treated by patching the stronger eye for periods of time.