Preventative health care is a means of stopping problems before they start, and a comprehensive eye exam is one form of preventative health care that will ensure your eyes remain healthy for years to come. But when should you get a comprehensive eye exam and what exactly does this comprehensive eye exam entail?
The Basics of Eye Exams
The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends a baseline eye exam for anyone 40 years of age or older. The aging process is an unforgiving one that puts wear and tear on the entire body, and the eyes are no exception. The chance of developing eye disease increases as you get older, and a comprehensive eye exam can identify any issues early on.
If you experience troublesome symptoms before 40, or if you have a risk factor for developing an eye disease, it is recommended that you see an ophthalmologist before the recommended “start” age. If you are 65 or older, you should have your eyes checked every one to two years. Cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma are age-related eye diseases that can lower one’s quality of life. A comprehensive eye exam is fairly simple and should not take longer than 90 minutes to complete.
Examining Medical History
Most optometrists or ophthalmologists will begin with an assessment of your vision and overall health. This includes if and when any eye or vision symptoms began, any work and environmental conditions that could factor into your vision problems, and finally, an analysis of eye disease or other health conditions that family members have had. Genes play a big role in the medical field whether you want them to or not.
Most people are familiar with this part of the eye exam. Ophthalmologists will ask patients to read an eye chart to determine how well he or she can see out of each eye at various distances. When reading the eye charts, patients will cover one eye, using the other eye to read the letters on the chart. Normal distance visual acuity is 20/20, but this number can change with age.
Pupils are meant to constrict and dilate in response to levels of light. The more light the eye is exposed to, the smaller the pupil becomes. And vice versa, the pupil is supposed to dilate in environments where there is little to no light. Ophthalmologists will evaluate pupil response by shining a beam of light through the pupils. If the pupil doesn’t respond to the light or if there is an abnormal reaction, it could be a sign of an underlying issue. To obtain a better view of your eye’s internal workings, ophthalmologists will administer dilation drops to get a closer look at the eyes and check for signs of eye disease.
Loss of peripheral vision is a symptom of glaucoma. It is common for people to lose their peripheral (side) vision without being aware of it, so ophthalmologists will test your side vision using a visual field test. Blind spots can be analyzed to help identify areas of brain damage that may have been caused by a stroke or tumor.
Proper ocular muscle function and alignment are essential to overall eye health. Ophthalmologists will measure the eyes and their ability to move both quickly and slowly in all directions. Usually, ophthalmologists will have patients follow a moving target, such as a hand-held light, with just the eyes. Irregular ocular motility can cause eye strain and affect reading ability along with other skills.
Elevated eye pressure, or IOP (intraocular eye pressure), is a sign of glaucoma. The most common tonometry test is the NCT, or non-contact tonometry. The patient places his or her chin on the chin rest, and looks at a light inside the machine. While you look at the light, the ophthalmologist will puff a small burst of air at your eye. The IOP is measured based on the eye’s resistance to the air. The other test is performed with an applanation tonometer. During this test, your ophthalmologist will put yellow drops into your eye to numb it. It doesn’t dilate the eyes, and it works so that you don’t feel any discomfort during the procedure. While you stare straight ahead into a slit lamp, the doctor will gently touch the surface of the eye using the tonometer. Both procedures are painless and relatively quick.
Depending on the condition of your eyes, your ophthalmologist may recommend further examinations and additional testing to make a proper diagnosis. Tests may include OCT, topography or fundus photos, and every test will help deliver a more accurate assessment so that you and the ophthalmologist can work together to develop a treatment plan.
With over 20 years of optometry experience, Dr. Bettner specializes in the treatment and management of ocular diseases, elder and pediatric vision, as well as common issues such as computer vision syndrome or dry eye therapy. Call our office or visit our website today to schedule your next eye exam at Bettner Vision in north Colorado Springs.