Nearly all Americans believe their eye health is just as important as the health of their heart, but nearly half of those, ages 23-
38, don’t think they need an eye exam if their vision is clear, according to American Optometric Associations’s (AOA) Eye-Q® Survey 2020. It’s time to turn belief into action: making a comprehensive eye exam a critical part of your overall health maintenance, equal to your annual physical with your primary care physician.
After all, your doctor of optometry may detect early signs of conditions or diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, glaucoma, macular degeneration, Graves’ disease, autoimmune disorders, cancer and tumors. In fact, getting a comprehensive eye exam is the only way to visualize the blood vessels behind the eye for issues without an x-ray, CT scan or invasive surgery.
A comprehensive eye exam is not just a vision screening. Remember the eye test with the tiny letters you took at school or to renew your driver’s license? That’s a vision screening.
A vision screening isn’t enough
If you’re wondering what the difference is between a vision screening test (the kind you received in school) and a comprehensive eye exam, a vision screening only indicates a potential need for further evaluation. Even the most sophisticated vision screening tools, administered by the most highly trained screeners, miss one-third of children with eye or vision disorders, according to the AOA’s Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guideline: Comprehensive Pediatric Eye and Vision Examination.
Why is an eye exam important?
According to Eye-Q, one in five Americans say an eye health professional detected or diagnosed a non-eye related health issue. In that same survey, one-fourth of those Americans note that an eye health professional detected “floaters” in their eyes, which may signal a risk or onset of diabetes. And doctors of optometry can detect more than 270 serious health conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases and cancers.
Early detection is key
Since many vision issues show no obvious signs or symptoms, the only way to truly get the “all-clear!” is by seeing a doctor of optometry for a check-up. Your doctor of optometry will also go over your overall health and family history, eye or vision symptoms, medications, and potential work-related or environmental issues that may affect your vision. You will also partake in preliminary tests such as depth perception, color vision, eye muscle movements, peripheral or side vision, and how your pupils respond to light.
So how do you make sure to make an eye exam part of your yearly routine?
- Ask your employer if you can take sick time to take care of appointments like physicals and eye exams, and make the time to take care of your overall health.
- Put your annual HSA and FSA dollars to good use to see the full portrait of your health, covering a comprehensive eye exam with a doctor of optometry – even if you don’t have vision insurance.
Nearly 30,000 professional doctors of optometry are typically only a few minutes away. Find an American Optometric Association member doctor of optometry near you and schedule your annual comprehensive eye exam today.
There’s no app for that
You may have seen apps advertised that can ‘replace going to the eye doctor.’ However, online vision tests attempt to replace one element of an eye examination, the refraction, to yield a prescription for glasses or contacts. It is not unlike taking a blood pressure reading at a kiosk and expecting a prescription – the reading does not provide sufficient information to determine a patient’s needed course of therapy. The refraction performed by online vision tests is only one of many tests performed during an eye examination, and taken by itself, does not provide sufficient information regarding the treatment of a patient, including the prescription of glasses or contact lenses.
Are online vision tests accurate?
Online vision tests may give inaccurate or misleading information, and can give patients a false sense of security. In fact, patients may delay essential, sight-saving treatment. Comprehensive eye exams with your doctor of optometry are one of the most important, preventive ways to preserve vision, and the only way to accurately assess eye health, diagnose an eye disorder or disease, and determine the need for corrective lenses.