Are you sure that your eyes are as healthy as they should be? Many eye ailments that can cause blindness to have no symptoms in their earliest stages. To protect your vision now and into the future, it is important to get regular, comprehensive eye exams.
But more than 23 million Americans age 18 and older have never had their eyes examined, according to a national survey conducted by National Eye Institute (NEI). The most common reason for not getting an exam is assuming that you don’t have an eye problem. And most people who have had their eyes checked only got a basic vision checkup, rather than the comprehensive exam that is needed to catch the early signs of serious eye diseases.
A comprehensive eye exam, including dilation, is the only way to know if your eyes are healthy. Getting your eyes dilated is painless. Drops are placed in each eye to widen your pupils. After your pupils are dilated, your eyes are examined using a special magnifying lens that enables your eye doctor to check the health of each eye’s retina, macula (light sensitive area at the back of your retina), and optic nerve.
After an eye dilation exam, you may feel a little disoriented. This is because we’re accustomed to having our eyes automatically adjust to the intensity of the light around us – closing (contracting) when we’re in a brightly lit environment and opening (dilating) in low light conditions. But until the effect of the drops wear off – typically 4-8 hours for adults and a day or so for children – your eyes won’t contract in response to light. Bring sunglasses with you to protect your eyes, and try to have a friend with you in case you feel a bit woozy. It’s best not to drive yourself home.
And be aware that some adults’ eyes will need longer than 8 hours to return to normal function after dilation, so try to schedule your appointment on a day when you don’t have anything critical to do on the following day.
Additionally, as part of a comprehensive exam, your eye doctor will also conduct a test called “tonometry” to detect glaucoma, a group of diseases that can damage the optic nerve. This test involves a puff of air briefly directed onto your eyes or placing a pressure-sensitive tip near or ever-so-gently against the eye. Numbing drops may be applied to your eyes before this test.
You’ll also get a visual field test, which measures your side (peripheral) vision. A loss of peripheral vision may be a sign of glaucoma. During this test, one eye is covered, and you’ll be asked to focus your uncovered eye on an object in front of you. Your eye care professional will then perform actions – such as holding up different numbers of fingers – within your peripheral field of view and ask you to describe what you see.
Sometimes visual field tests are performed with light flashes. You place your head into a bowl-shaped device, and focus on a light source. Tiny flashes of light will be displayed from various areas in your vision field. You press a button to indicate whenever you see a flash of light.
And you’ll get a visual acuity test. This is the eye exam that most of us are familiar with – you read an eye chart, which allows your eye care professional to gauge how well you see at various distances.
According to the NEI, those aged 60 and up should have a comprehensive exam annually, while younger people should have one at least once a decade, starting in their 20s. Your eye care provider may wish to see you more often, particularly if you have a health condition such as diabetes, so it’s best to follow his or her advice in scheduling check-ups.
And If you have noticed any of the following symptoms– blurred vision (even with glasses), sensitivity to light, eye pain, black spots before your eyes, persistent watering, redness, and burning, or increasing headaches or squinting– schedule an appointment with an eye-care professional soon. You may need glasses/contact lens or you may need to have your eyeglass/lens prescription adjusted.
Whatever you do, don’t skip getting your exam. Glaucoma currently affects more than three million Americans, but only half are aware they have the disease, according to The Centers for Disease Control. The NEI predicts that by 2030, 4.2 million people will have glaucoma.
Besides regular exams, other ways to protect your vision include maintaining a healthy lifestyle, knowing your family’s history of eye disease (some conditions that can cause blindness is genetic), using the appropriate protective eyewear on the job or while playing sports, and wearing sunglasses that block out 99 to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays.
People tend to put off basic health care when budgets are tight. If you don’t think you have an eye problem, it seems safe to delay getting your eyes checked. But that may result in missing the early signs of an eye disease that becomes harder to treat effectively over time.
More than 11 million Americans currently have an uncorrected visual impairment that can impact their quality of life, according to the NEI. With the help of a vision savings plan from DentalPlans, you can see what you’ve been missing.
DentalPlans offers affordable alternatives to traditional dental insurance, including vision care savings plans. These plans enable members to save significantly on the cost of eye exams, glasses, contact lenses, even LASIK surgery at thousands of eye care facilities – both national chains and local providers – nationwide.
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