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Having your eyes tested can feel like a chore, especially if you’re a busy parent. When you’re dealing with school runs, work commitments and your other relationships, your health is often put on the back burner. It’s hard to find time to visit the doctors and the dentist, let alone the opticians. However, the importance of your eye health is usually underestimated.
Taking care of you and your family’s eye health is important for a number of reasons and the key to maintaining good eye health (and good overall health as we’ll explain) is through regular eye tests. The experts at Optimax are here to tell you just how important eye tests are and why.
Why are they important?
How often you should get an eye test, depends on your age and your eye health history. The NHS recommends that you should get your eyes tested every two years. Factors which might mean you need more regular eye tests include:
- You have a condition such as high blood pressure or diabetes
- You work in a job where your eyes are extremely important
- You take any medicines which affect your eyes
Often, people think that a school vision screening or a vision screening at a motor vehicle department is enough to test you and your child’s eyes. But the clue is in the name. These tests will only look at your vision; how well you or your child can read a whiteboard or road signs at a distance. A proper eye exam is essential for examining beyond your vision.
The purpose of an eye exam is to evaluate the health and condition of not only your vision but your actual eyes. They ensure that you have the right prescription and if you are happy with how your glasses are working, or whether you want to consider alternatives such as contact lenses or laser eye surgery.
In addition to this, eye exams will also detect any early signs of eye disease, before you even notice symptoms. Catching these conditions early is essential for keeping them under control, which is why you should make sure you get yours scheduled. Not only this, but eye examinations can spot other health conditions. Many people learn they have conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even cancer, from a routine eye exam.
What can eye exams detect?
Eye exams can quite easily detect signs of eye disease. Eye disease can happen to anybody, but you become more at risk as you get older. Eye diseases include conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Here is a little bit about them:
Glaucoma – this is a common condition where the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, is damaged. This is usually due to a build-up of fluid in the eye, which causes pressure. It is most common in adults in their 70s and 80s. However, pregnancy and menopause can also trigger it. Glaucoma can lead to loss of vision if not diagnosed and treated.
Cataracts – a cataract is the clouding of the lens inside your eye. This interferes with the passage of light through the eye, resulting in blurred vision, which can’t be corrected with glasses.
AMD – this is another common condition that affects the middle part of your vision, which can worsen if it is left undiagnosed and untreated. It usually affects people in their 50s and 60s, and it is a useful thing to be aware of as you move further and further through adulthood.
As mentioned earlier, eye tests can also spot signs of other health conditions. During an eye examination, your eye doctor can observe the health and condition of the blood vessels in your retina, which is good at predicting the state of the blood vessels in the rest of your body. Without getting too technical, conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia are all visible by changes in the appearance of the retinal blood supply and blood vessels.
That’s why making sure you and your family are getting regular eye tests is so important for maintaining your overall health.
What happens during an eye exam?
Where you have your eye test, and the current conditions of your eyes will determine what will happen during an eye exam. Usually, an eye exam should take about 20 minutes, but it can take longer for some people because the optometrist will tailor your test to you, based on a number of factors. These factors might include:
- Your family medical history
- Whether you currently wear glasses
- What you tell them about your vision
There are a series of tests that will occur in most eye exams. They usually start with a discussion between you and your optometrist, followed by a series of tests. The test most people are familiar with is the one where you read from a chart, testing your distance and near vision.
Another test is the non-contact tonometer test, which looks at the pressure in your eyes by blowing a puff of air at each eye. You may also do an autorefractor test which tests how well your eyes focus and gives you an approximate prescription for your eyes. The ophthalmoscope test uses a bright light, where the optometrist can examine your retina. You may also have your retina examined using a digital retinal camera which takes a close-up photograph.
If you are a contact lens wearer, you may also have to undergo the slit lamp test. This test examines the cornea, iris and lens, to check whether there are any scratches or abrasions.
How to prepare for an eye exam
There are a couple of things you can do to prepare for your eye exam so that it runs as smoothly as possible. You can expect questions about your vision so it may be useful to give this some thought before you go. You may be asked things like, are you having any problems with your vision now or have you in the past? Do you currently wear glasses and are you happy with how they are working?
Some eye exams may include tests that involve putting drops in your eyes. Some of these tests may require you to wear sunglasses as you leave. So, just to be on the safe side, it is useful to take some sunglasses with you.
How else you can look after your eyes
Having regular eye tests for you and your family is just one of the many things you can do to look after the health of your eyes. Other ways include taking care of your overall health by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep. You should also follow good hygiene by washing your hands regularly and taking off any makeup before you go to bed. All of this will help you on your way to a healthy lifestyle and, in turn, healthy eyes.