If you have never had an eye examination, you might wonder why you need an eye test at all. If you’ve recently had an eye examination, when should you have it done again?
Short Answer: It Depends
As a general rule of thumb, everyone should have their eyes checked every two years regardless of their age or overall health. Just like looking after your overall health with regular visits to your GP or your dentist, routine visits to your optometrist ensures your eyes are healthy and to detect any subtle deterioration in your vision which may put you at risk of certain eye diseases.
Understanding Your Overall Health
If you’re a young and healthy individual with no issues with your vision, you might take your vision for granted. Nowadays, we are spending more time on our computers which could tire your eyes out, making your vision fluctuate and sometimes associated headaches. You might be suffering from eye strain, in which case, a routine eye examination with your optometrist would be able to advise you further. Glasses with a mild strength or prescription may help your eyes focus, alleviating symptoms of eye strain and making your vision more comfortable. If glasses were recommended to help with the eye strain, it is often a temporary measure, and it is usually not required if the hours you spend on the computer or reading reduces. Your optometrist may review you closely to see if your eyes have further deteriorated or whether your prescription needed to be adjusted. The review period for eye strain is typically around 6 – 12 months, to ensure your eye fatigue hasn’t worsened from your initial appointment.
Diabetes and Hypertension
Having an eye exam not only looks at your vision, but can also provide a window to your overall health such as diabetes. During your routine eye examination, your optometrist may perform a dilated eye examination to assess your retinal blood vessels. Your eyes are the only area where your health practitioner can look at how your blood vessels naturally, in its environment. Systemic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension change the appearance of your blood vessel. The first signs of diabetes or high blood pressure could be detected during a routine eye examination. Unmanaged diabetes could lead to diabetic retinopathy – which is significant bleeding in the eye affecting the retina and the macula, causing irreversible scarring causing permanent blindness. Depending on how well your diabetes or hypertension is managed, it could take weeks or months for unmanaged diabetes to start to affect your vision. It is recommended that you have your eyes checked every 12 months to ensure you’re not at risk of blindness due to diabetes or hypertension.
Taking Chronic Medications
Medications have side effects. If you’re taking certain long-term medications to manage as a specific chronic health issue. One such medication is hydroxychloroquine, marketed as Plaquenil has some significant side effects which can affect your vision. Plaquenil is used to treat a wide variety of autoimmune diseases. However, the medication is very toxic to specific layers of the retina. If not careful, the damage to these layers of the retina could lead to irreversible changes to your vision. Your specialist would advise you to have your eyes tested as a baseline, which helps them to manage the dosage of the medication and your condition effectively. After your initial assessment, it is common to have your eyes tested again in 3 months to detect any subtle changes, then routinely every year; sooner if the dosage of the medication has changed.
Similarly, several classes of anti-depression medications have ocular side effects which may affect your vision. Depending on your circumstances, it is recommended that you have your eyes checked at least once every two years.
Our body wears out over time, and your eyes are no exception to this rule. Like you have your routine dental appointment to prevent any nasty (and often costly) surprises, an eye checkup appointment shouldn’t be viewed differently. Eye diseases such as glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and cataracts are more common with individuals above their 60s approaching their 70s. Although some of these age-related eye diseases are irreversible, there are numerous therapies and advice to help you to prevent blindness from these eye diseases. We advise our patients above the age of 60 to have their eye test every 12 months.
The Bottom Line
Regardless of your age or general health, if you haven’t had an eye examination, checkup or a vision test ever, now it is the time to take action. A simple eye test with your optometrist ensures that your eyes are healthy and the assurance that you’re doing the right thing to prevent any possible vision issues that might occur.
A tip we use to remind our patients that are due for their routine eye examination is;
- On the day of their birthday
- On the day of their Drivers’ licence renewal
- On the day of their routine dental appointment
If it has been a while since your eye test, consider making your appointment with us online. Capital Eye is your local optometrist serving Barton, Manuka, Griffith, Red Hill, Forrest, Yarralumla, Kingston, Deakin and its surrounding suburbs. We are experts in providing personalised advice regarding your vision and eye health.