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Are Yearly Eye Exams Really Necessary?

Updated on November 21, 2016
See your eye doctor this year!  Don't wait!  Go soon!
See your eye doctor this year! Don't wait! Go soon! | Source

Eye Opening Reasons to see an Eye Doc

Never let excuses make you decide to skip a yearly eye appointment. Maybe you don’t wear glasses or you don’t think your prescription has changed recently but it's important to see the big picture.

My husband has been treated for melanoma two times now. His doctor is a Mohs specialist/fellow. In a recent discussion on whether he should have a liver scan the doc's response included the fact that regular eye exams give surprising and important insight into a person's health.

The following reasons for seeing an eye doctor are a head’s up on why you want to make and keep eye exam appointments. Don’t miss out on early treatment for serious conditions!

Checking on the Need for Corrected Vision

Is it possible to miss an essential need to get an eye check up? Yes, yes, yes is the short answer. Clearly, if our vision is suddenly bad we will be driven to a consultation with an eye care professional.

However, if it slowly slides we may not realize that we need to be checked. We can grow used to a few little oddities and unconsciously create ways to manage around them.

A predisposition for deteriorating eyesight thanks to an ancestor can sneak up on us. And then there’s that old nemesis called age with its bad habit of compromising people’s vision.

Eye diseases and other health issues can go unnoticed, changing our sight ever so subtly as they do their dastardly deeds.

Even common issues like farsightedness and nearsightedness are not always recognized by patients. A visit to the eye doctor can result in surprising clarity for those with only slight signs of these conditions.

Peeking into patient’s eyes makes qualified specialists eyewitnesses to crucial cues that can help patients before manageable problems become out of control issues. Don’t just be a spectator, get in the driver’s seat by seeing an eye doc for your health’s sake.

Blue, brown, or green, all eyes need to be seen every year!
Blue, brown, or green, all eyes need to be seen every year! | Source

Eye Infection–Yuk!

Obviously, spotting a problem is the first line of defense when an eye infection or injury (that can lead to infection) occurs. They are serious concerns that should be not be neglected.

Any injury should be diagnosed by an eye doctor. Traumas may or may not need immediate intervention. Some could simply need monitoring. An eye doctor will be able to tell the difference between a simple scratch and significant damage. It is risky for patients to diagnose or treat eye injuries for themselves.

But could a serious ailment go unnoticed? Yes, again. Questionable habits like smoking, not wearing sunglasses or a having bad diet can create eye disease that an eye doctor can detect in its earliest stages. Illnesses that come to us through no fault of our own can be identified and often treated in time.

Parts of the Eye Only a Doc Can See

The cornea is a protective covering for the eye. The lens is behind the iris, or the colored part of an eye. You probably knew that, but just visualize what the doctor sees when he squints into other components of the organ called an eye.

They evaluate its ciliary body, its fovea, and its vitreous humor (and no, that has nothing to do with clean jokes). There are more parts, but a good example is found in the first thing we notice about others’ eyes, the lovely iris.

Since this prettily colored part regulates how much light gets in, it’s easy to see the need to make sure it is doing its job just right. What could go wrong? Regular checkups help find a number of potential issues in that appealing eye part (and the other parts).

What Do Eye Doctors Learn from their Crystal Balls Called Exams?

A variety of health issues can be found when an eye doctor gives a complete exam. The list of tests range from a simple visual acuity exam to observation of how well eyes function with each other.

Typical testing for eye health includes examinations for glaucoma and a look at the retina’s blood supply and nerves. Corneal disorders like dry eye and conjunctivitis can be addressed during an eye exam. Those are a few of the more familiar issues patients can need to have addressed.

A refraction test is used to check out one eye disease that may be news to you. R retinitis pigmentosa damages the retina. My first count of issues that this test can help solve reveals 9 conditions. Plainly, it is a valuable test.

Exterior and Interior Melanoma (Gulp)

No joke, it’s a killer. Not only do eye doctors look into eyes, they examine their outer areas. Cancers can be detected and treated all because you kept your appointment with an eye doc.

Ocular melanoma can begin inside the eye, and yes, that’s scary. The good news is that a good eye doc will carefully look for it during an exam. Because there aren’t usually any early symptoms, this alone is an important enough reason to see an eye doctor.

Are you careful to make and keep yearly eye exams?

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If an eye shows a new dark place on the iris, if flashing lights start, if there’s been a change in the shape of the pupil, vision change in one eye, perhaps some reduced field of vision, or if specks of dust seem to be showing up it is time report to the doc.

How important is it for kids to have regular check ups? Well, retinoblastoma is often diagnosed before the age of three. The fact that researchers have developed eye exams for babies as young as 6 months is compelling.

Analyzing Ankylosing Spondyloarthritis: Hmmm?

If you read the whole term you are justifiably wondering about arthritis in the eye. That it’s not in the eye is the good news. But this is a serious, systemic inflammatory rheumatic disease that can be discovered in eye exams.

Uveitis is an inflammation of the uvea, or a group of eye parts comprised of the iris, choroid, and ciliary body. Researchers continue to look into why uveal disease and spondyloarthritis are so closely linked.

The consideration we are focusing on, though, is why that is an important reason to see a good eye doctor. Vision loss and eye infections combined with low back pain point out why at an appointment with an eye doctor a patient should discuss all physical issues they are experiencing.

Ankylosing spondylitis is as likely to impact the eye as it is any other body part. Reporting pain with vision problems to an eye doctor is vital to getting the best treatment as early as possible.

A View of Undiagnosed Diabetes

A comprehensive dilated eye exam can reveal many undiagnosed diseases, but the one most commonly found is diabetes. With very few symptoms in its early stages, many pre-diabetics are unaware when complications begin due to stage 2 setting in.

There are risk factors a person can pay attention to such as sedentary lifestyle resulting in obesity, family history, race, age, and gestational diabetes during pregnancy, but most people evidently ignore them. Steps can be taken to prevent the disease from worsening, but statistics report that too many do not bother with early detection.

On a positive note, early detection provides an optimistic outcome. Simply keeping their yearly appointment has helped patients avoid complicated health issues related to diabetes. A timely diagnosis results in the best formula for eye care and other organs affected by this disease.

Take care of your eyes!
Take care of your eyes! | Source

Liver Diseases, Brain Tumors, and Wilson Disease

Jaundiced eyes could point to overlooked but serious liver disorders. Eye exams can help a patient know whether they should see their primary caregiver right away for a blood test to help determine whether they have a complication like nonalcoholic fatty liver disease,

An eye doctor’s testing can tell patients about a possible need to get checked for a brain tumor before other symptoms are noticeable. Annual examinations watch out for optic nerve changes and can spy a connection to alterations in a patient’s field of vision.

Limited eye movement with jaundiced eyes can be early signs of Wilson disease, serious because it prevents the body from deleting copper. There is help, especially if detected when symptoms begin. Chelation procedures and some medications change the course of the disorder.

Early detection is crucial to successful treatment for these problems. Using an eye doctor’s insight can be helpful to the practitioners or specialists you might need to see if one of these are suspected.

High Blood Pressure and Sick Arteries

Big words like hypertensive retinopathy have life-changing definitions. Thankfully, a simple eye exam can identify silent damage to the retina caused by high blood pressure. The information provided by the test can help prevent the possible occurrence of a stroke or heart attack.

Arteries can harden as we age even if we have lived a healthy life. Symptoms of atherosclerosis do not show up until blood flow is slowed or even blocked, affecting any number of organs including the heart and brain.

Hypertension means that the heart must work harder than it should. That strain contributes to more serious problems. Turning a blind eye to the cause is dangerous. But how does an eye exam help?

Vessels in the eye are the ones that can be observed most easily. An eye doctor can get a first look at vessel health making it possible to send a patient for treatment before it’s too late. Who wouldn’t choose that over more invasive testing?

The Right Docs make the Difference

Now that we have a vision of why it’s a good thing to make and keep regular eye appointments, knowing the fundamental differences between an optician, an optometrist, and an ophthalmologist tells us who to hire for advice and care.

An optician is a trained technician. They work with optometrists and ophthalmologists to ensure that the right design and fit for vision correction prescriptions goes to each patient. They do not test or prescribe on their own.

An optometrist is a doctor of optometry (OD). They must be certified to practice. Their work is typically to do exams and tests that allow them to write prescriptions for needed vision correction. They are able to detect some abnormalities and prescribe medication prescriptions. When they suspect bigger issues they will advance their patients to ophthalmologists.

An Ophthalmologist is an Eye M.D., or a medical doctor specializing in eye/vision health. They have far more training than an optometrist and are licensed to practice medicine and surgery. This eye care professional provides the broadest care to patients. They are sometimes involved in research projects and may specialize in a certain aspect of eye care.

Peeking into patient’s eyes makes a qualified eye care specialist an eyewitness to crucial cues that can help patients before manageable problems turn into out of control issues. Don’t just be a spectator, step up to bat by seeing an eye doc for your health’s sake.

Looking Over Eye Care

Can You Help Your Eyes at Home?

Absolutely. There are many things you can do at home and you probably know all about them. Living a healthy lifestyle helps your eyes. Focusing on good nutrition, exercising (yep, it really does help your eyes), and quality rest all make sense, don't they?

On top of that, they help the rest of you stay healthy so you can avoid meds that could adversely affect your eye health. However, do not let good overall health keep you from yearly eye exams. Okay now, you know what to do!

Add to this discussion, perhaps including your related experience:

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    • Sahanadas73 profile image

      Sahana 10 months ago from India

      Really very informative. I have the habit of delaying yearly eye exam, but I'll definitely change my habit after reading this.

    • Kaili Bisson profile image

      Kaili Bisson 10 months ago from Canada

      Really well done. It is so important to take care of our precious eyesight, and as you point out, these exams can uncover things that we might otherwise be unaware of...ignorance is not bliss!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 10 months ago from the short journey


      Thank you both for stopping in to read this latest hub and for letting me know you found it useful. I so hoped the information I learned would help someone.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 10 months ago from the short journey

      Kaili Bisson:

      Thanks so much for checking out this information on eye care and for your insightful (and generous) comment!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 10 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Your hub contains excellent advice, which I need to follow myself! Thank you very much for the reminder and for sharing all the information.

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