Like regular visits to your Dentist and GPs, routine eye examinations with your optometrist could help to prevent irreversible blindness. But when should you see your optometrist? Every two years? Perhaps every three years? Or only when you’ve started to notice problems in your vision?
Optometrists are trained to detect and diagnose any eye conditions, even at its very early stages. Their role is to correct any vision problems such as short-sightedness, long-sightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia. These conditions are generally correctable with the uses of optical lenses and modify the power of these lenses to provide clear and comfortable vision for the individual. However, the role of the optometrist is now much more than supplying you with frames and lenses. They are the first port-of-call to ensure your eyes are healthy and free from developing any potential eye diseases.
We often get asked, at what age we should get our kid’s vision tested? The short answer and the general rule of thumb is before starting school. However, this is heavily dependant on the child and their family. A child with a family history of turned eye or a squint, or a lazy eye should have them checked as soon as possible. There are simple, quick and painless tests that the optometrist can perform to evaluate the child’s risk of inheriting these eye problems.
Our eyes are generally screened for gross ocular health concerns at birth by the maternity health nurse or the paediatrician. Vision is then screened again at pre-school or school from the age of 3 to 5 years of age. Proper ocular alignment and pupil reactions are essential for vision development and are often briefly screened at each subsequent visits to your GP. After the age of 5, visits to the optometrists are seldom, unless parents or teachers have concerns with the child’s eyes or academic performance. This creates an opportunity for any vision problems for the child to go undetected throughout to adulthood.
For children, we are not concerned with vision per se, but the vision development. For vision to develop normally, both eyes need to be pointing in the right direction. If you’ve noticed your child has a turned eye or a squint, we suggest to have his or her eyes checked as soon as possible. Early signs of turned eyes are relatively easy to correct with excellent success rates. Putting off seeing the optometrist interfere with the visual development of your child and can lead to ‘lazy eye.’
Lazy eye or amblyopia is a term we use to describe when the vision in both eyes is not equal. This means one eye sees better than the other. It is challenging to tell this in a child as we don’t often walk around covering our eyes to notice this difference in vision. Furthermore, subtle differences are hard to differentiate without a full eye test from your optometrist. Measuring vision requires the child to have a good understanding of basic instructions and cooperation. We often test for this from the age of three; with pictures, if the child is not confident with the alphabets. It is important to note that not all picture tests are created equal. The results are variable dependant on the ‘type’ of pictures that were used in the test. We recommend having your children’s eyes tested at the age of three, and again at the age of five or six.
A child usually doesn’t complain about their vision, and it is often reflected in their performance at school. We recommend having your child’s eyes tested at least once before turning the age of 5.
At any point you feel your vision is not the same as they always have been; it is essential to have this check promptly. A sudden change in vision is certainly not normal. You need to see an optometrist who can look inside your eyes to ensure your retina, and intraocular lenses are stable and healthy.
There is no benefit in delaying your appointment and hoping the issue will sort itself out. For those conditions without prompt treatment, such sudden onset loss of vision in one eye caused by giant retinal tear could leave your vision permanently affected.
You may have a change in your medications, such as taking Plaquenil for autoimmune conditions or recently diagnosed with Type II diabetes. Changes to your overall systemic health can sometimes have an impact on your vision. Quite often, your treating specialist may discuss having an eye test to ensure your new medications or your medical diagnosis hasn’t affected your eyesight. It is crucial to have a thorough background eye examination at the early stages to ensure the changes to your vision (if any) are monitored.
If you don’t wear any glasses or experience any vision problems, a routine annual check will suffice, similar to a regular dental visit. Sometimes, with a complete absence of any eye problems, your optometrist may recommend a routine check every two or even three years.
The Bottom Line
We look after all other aspects of our health. We routinely visit GPs for our medical check-ups, our dentists for our dental health. We even service our cars routinely to avoid a break down during our commute. Why should our eyes be excluded among all this? If you haven’t had your eyes checked in the past, we suggest you do to ensure you see at your best.