Why should I have an eye exam? An eye exam is more than just a Vision Test! During an eye exam, the optometrist is assessing the strength of the muscles in & around the eyes & more importantly, the eye health. An annual eye exam is recommended as preventative health care.
What are some common tests performed during an thorough eye exam & why? Visual Acuity - to test the distance & near vision in each eye. ex. 20/20 vision is the standard to be achieved. Refraction Test - to measure the amount of prescription required to allow 20/20 vision ex. myopia (near sightedness), hyperopia (far sightedness), astigmatism and presbyopia. Ocular Motility - to measure any movement and variance in eye position ex. cross-eye/turned eye. Accommodation - to measure the amount & speed one can hold focus at any given distance ex. the ability to sustain and achieve focus for effective reading and learning skills. Biomicroscopy - to assess the anterior segment(front part) of the eye including the anterior surface referred to as the cornea & the lens, both of which are transparent. ex. to detect eye infections such as pink eye, ulcers, dystrophys, cataracts, contact lens fit. Ophthalmoscopy - to assess the posterior segment(interior part) of the eye including the retina, vitreous humor & optic nerve. ex. to detect eye and systemic disease such as glaucoma, diabetes and hypertension. Tonometry - to measure the pressure within the eye ex. for glaucoma screening, an asymptomatic condition of which there is no cure, only prevention. Peripheral Fields - to measure the side vision ex. allows detection of eye and non-eye conditions such as glaucoma, brain tumors, and strokes.
At what age & how often should one have an eye exam? The Ontario Association of Optometrists recommends a complete eye exam starting at age 3 & every year thereafter. One may not expect a child to have cataracts or glaucoma, however there are many other important eye conditions that an optometrist monitors at this age. The optometrist tailors the eye exam to put emphasis on diferent tests depending on the age of the individual.
Why does a child who appears to see well need an eye exam? A child may not have any vision complaints & pass routine screenings with 20/20 vision at distance & near and yet may not be able to read continuously for longer than a few minutes. In this case, a vision screening may give the parents a false sense of security if results show 20/20 vision. Since 80% of our learning is through vision, this could significantly reduce the effective learning ability of the child! This is unfortunately a very common finding observed in children’s eye tests. In fact, many farsighted, astigmatic children have been misdiagnosed as having a learning disability and when the vision problem has been detected, it is often after poor learning skills have developed. With the popularity of computers, video games & concerns regarding the depletion of the ozone layer, it is becoming more important to monitor eye health at any age. As one grows older, there are the obvious age related risks to eye diseases, some of which can be controlled and prevented if detected early. If the patient waits until they experience symptoms of diminishing vision, it may be too late.
When my vision is weak, do glasses always help? Surprisingly, this is the most common assumption. Most people feel that they should only bother with an eye exam when their vision is weak & that glasses will correct this. However, in certain cases, it may be an eye disease, that can not be improved with glasses & the consequences may be much more dramatic.
What about contact lenses(CL) & what kind are best? Contact Lenses are now available in almost any type of prescription including astigmatism(toric) & presbyopia(bifocal). CL provide excellent peripheral and more natural vision. Thick glasses may cause significant distortions. CL are also ideal for sports. There is no one brand that is best for everyone. This is dependent on the type of prescription, tear physiology, dimensions of the corneae & individual factors. Planned replacement lenses or disposables, offer good long term eye health and the convenience of using a one bottle solution, in most cases, saving you money. These lenses are to be replaced at specific intervals as determined by your optometrist & the HCP/FDA based on the method of care & type of lens.