Many eye conditions — potentially blinding ones — don’t have early symptoms. And some serious diseases that affect other systems in the body can first be diagnosed by an ophthalmologist. That is why it’s important to have a complete eye examination once a year.
First Eye Exam for Kids
I recommend that children have their first full eye exam at age four unless problems are suspected earlier. Vision screenings done at a pre-school or a pediatrician’s office cannot always detect problems. An ophthalmologist can perform objective measurements that don’t depend on a child’s ability to recognize letters or pictures. We can see if a child is near- or far-sighted, check for amblyopia (weak vision in one eye), recognize improper alignment of the eyes, and recognize anatomical irregularities in the cornea, lens, and retina. Problems that are discovered early are often easier to treat at a young age.
Annual Exams Important for Diagnosing and Treating Eye Diseases and Other Disorders
From age eight onward, children and adults should have yearly eye exams. There are many reasons for this, including:
- Vision Testing
Our vision can sometimes change slowly enough that we don’t recognize it. Children may not know what normal vision looks like and might be compromised at school because so much information is visual. Adults can have sub-optimal driving vision, which can impact safety on the road.
- Systemic Disease
An ophthalmologist will review all medications to see if any may be impacting your eye health. Additionally, because the eye is the only place in the body where blood vessels and nerves can be seen directly, an eye exam can reveal certain systemic diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, some neurologic conditions, and others.
- Cancer Screening
Tumors can be seen in the iris, the optic nerve, the retina, and the choroid (the layer behind the retina). Melanoma, a particularly dangerous tumor usually found on the skin, can also occur in the choroid. Early detection can often lead to complete cures.
- Examination for Eye Diseases
A complete eye exam will include checking for many eye diseases that can affect vision. Dry eyes, cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma are some of the more common conditions. Glaucoma, a disease that usually involves high pressure in the eye, can damage the optic nerve, has no symptoms until very late. Called the “sneak thief of sight,” glaucoma can occur at any age and is usually easily treated. This disease can cause blindness if it isn’t detected. An eye examination is the only way to diagnose glaucoma.
- Glasses and Contact Lenses
Checking that your eyewear fits properly is also an important part of an annual exam. Poorly fitting contact lenses can lead to serious eye infections and permanent scarring of the cornea. An ophthalmologist can also recommend eyewear that can help with a particular eye problem. For instance, sunglasses with proper ultraviolet filtering can improve comfort, make driving safer, and help prevent damage to the eye’s internal structures.
Annual eye exams are an important part of preventive health care. Just as you should see your dentist and general physician each year, you should visit your eye doctor as well. An ophthalmologist, a doctor trained in the eyes’ medical and surgical treatments, is the best person to help you continue to see your best.
Ophthalmology at Boulder Medical Center
Ophthalmology involves the evaluation and treatment of disorders of the eyes. An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor (MD) or a doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) specializing in eye and vision care. Ophthalmologists are trained to perform eye exams, diagnose and treat disease, prescribe medications, and perform eye surgery. Conditions our ophthalmologists treat include:
- Eye surgery
- Aging macular degeneration
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Misalignment of the eyes
- Eye infections. Pink eye, red eye, iritis, uveitis