I’m often asked why it’s important to have an annual eye exam. If you wear glasses or contacts, you know that your vision can change over the course of a year. Even if that change isn’t obvious to you, an updated prescription can make a real difference in your quality of life at work and at home. Everyday activities like reading and working on the computer are a lot more comfortable when you have the right eyewear.
Many times, patients come to us for their first exam in their early 40s, when they start experiencing presbyopia, or the inability to focus close up (i.e., when reading). However, even if you’re not experiencing any noticeable change in your vision, periodic comprehensive eye exams are important, because they allow for the early detection of eye diseases and other eye problems—some of which have no obvious symptoms. Earlier detection allows for earlier treatment and a better visual outcome for most.
At the Emory Eye Center, our comprehensive eye exam includes screening for signs of eye and medical problems such as:
- Glaucoma – Glaucoma is an eye disease typically caused by an increase in pressure in the eye that can’t be felt. Over time, if not treated, glaucoma damages the optic nerve and can lead to blindness. In general, there are no early warning signs, and early detection is the key to preserving vision. Often, the patients we diagnose with glaucoma haven’t had an eye exam in 5 to 10 years.
- Cataracts – A cataract is a change in the lens inside the eye as a result of aging. Over time, this leads to hazy vision. Cataracts can be treated with surgery.
- Macular degeneration – Macular degeneration affects your central vision and can occur as a result of aging. Depending on the type of macular degeneration, you may experience drastic changes within a year’s time. A comprehensive annual exam can help us detect the early signs of macular degeneration and treat it, if necessary.
- Hypertension – Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a systemic issue that can affect the eye in a number of ways. We can detect signs of hypertension in the back of the eye during a comprehensive eye exam.
- Diabetes – Diabetes is another systemic issue that can affect the eyes and lead to blindness. People with diabetes need to have an annual eye exam to check for diabetic retinopathy, or damage to the eye’s retina, which may be symptomless until the damage is severe. An eye exam also can help detect the early signs of diabetes, allowing earlier preventive treatment.
An annual eye exam provides a baseline against which to measure future vision changes and the progression of eye disease or other medical problems. One hour once a year can make a significant difference in your vision, your health, and your quality of life.
When’s the last time you had a comprehensive eye exam? Please take a moment to give us feedback in the comments section below. If you’re interested in making your eye exam appointment with Emory, visit our Eye Center Patient Services page.
About Ann Van Wie, OD
Ann Van Wie, OD, is a member of the American Optometric Association and the Georgia Optometric Association. Dr. Van Wie started practicing at Emory in 2000 and is an instructor of ophthalmology.