Along with specializing and treating many different eye diseases, Spectrum Eye Physicians also provides general ophthalmology examinations and can provide you with all of your glasses or contact lens prescription needs. A regular eye exam is more than a simple vision check. A complete or comprehensive eye examination is a fairly complicated series of tests that not only checks your vision, but also neurological function, eye pressure, and health of the outer and inner structures of the eye.
The frequency of eye examinations should be based on the presence of abnormalities or the probability of visual abnormalities developing. Individuals who have ocular symptoms (sudden visual loss, injury, pain, redness, new floaters or light flashes) require prompt examinations. Individuals who do not have symptoms but who are at high risk of developing ocular abnormalities related to systemic diseases such as diabetes mellitus and hypertension or who have a family history of eye disease require periodic eye examinations. The frequency of these examinations depends on the age of the individual, the specific condition, and the likelihood of finding abnormalities on examination. Patients who have no symptoms and who are at low risk should receive an initial comprehensive eye examination, and they should then follow a schedule of periodic assessment designed to detect ocular disease.
If a comprehensive medical eye examination in the third decade of life (20-30 years old) reveals that no ocular disease is present, routine ocular examinations are not necessary until the onset of presbyopia (at approximately age 40). However, an interim evaluation is warranted if ocular symptoms, visual changes, or injury occur. For young individuals at higher risk for certain diseases, such as African-Americans (who are at higher risk for glaucoma), examinations should be done every 3 to 5 years for those aged 20 to 29 and every 2 to 4 years for those aged 30 to 65, even in the absence of visual or ocular symptoms.
For individuals without risk factors who are 40 to 64 years old and who have had a comprehensive examination, the recommended interval for interim evaluations is every 2 to 4 years. For individuals 65 years old or older, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends an examination every 1 to 2 years, even in the absence of symptoms.
Other special considerations:
- Infants at high risk, such as those with the potential for retinopathy of prematurity and those with a family history of retinoblastoma, childhood cataracts, childhood glaucoma, or metabolic and genetic disease, should have a medical examination by an ophthalmologist as soon as medically feasible.
- All children should undergo an evaluation to detect eye and vision abnormalities during the first few months of life, at 6 months to 1 year, at 3 years (approximately), and at 5 years (approximately). Abnormalities present at birth, such as cataracts, may have profound effects on the development of the normal vision in the infant. By age 3 to 3 1/2 years, the child will generally cooperate enough for fairly accurate assessment of visual acuity and ocular alignment, and he or she should have this assessed by a pediatrician or other medical practitioner. Any abnormalities or inability to test are criteria for referral to an ophthalmologist.
- School-age children should be evaluated regularly (approximately every 2 years) in schools, vision programs, religious organizations, community centers, and clubs and by volunteer organizations such as local Societies to Prevent Blindness for visual acuity and ocular alignment.
- After an initial comprehensive eye examination is performed by an ophthalmologist, individuals from the age of puberty to age 40 need to be examined again only if ocular symptoms, visual changes, or injury occur. The exception is for young adults who are at risk of developing significant ocular disease in this interval because of risk factors (family history or eye disease, diabetes, injury, African-American heritage).
- Individuals who develop diabetes mellitus type 1 before age 30 should be examined by an ophthalmologist 5 years after disease onset and at least yearly thereafter. Individuals who develop diabetes mellitus type 1 after age 30 should be examined by an ophthalmologist at the time of diagnosis and at least yearly thereafter. Individuals who develop diabetes mellitus type 2 should be examined at the time of diagnosis and at least yearly thereafter.
- Individuals from age 40 to 64 should be examined by an ophthalmologist every 2 to 4 years.
- Individuals 65 years or older should have an examination performed by an ophthalmologist every 1 to 2 years.
Remember that a comprehensive eye examination can detect disease that can potentially threaten your vision at a stage where the disease can be treatable or even curable. Eye examinations are painless, usually covered by insurance if necessary, and can prevent blindness. Follow the guidelines above and help us protect your sight.