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Is it Time to Check in With an Eye Doctor?

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Dr. Judy Hoggatt


Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin

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Most of us know the importance of getting an annual exam with a primary care physician. But did you also know you should check in with an eye doctor on a regular basis?

Eye disease is often subtle and frequently goes unnoticed. When only one eye is affected, the good eye may compensate so you may not notice a problem. And sometimes there are not any symptoms, making it that much more difficult to detect issues.

The frequency with which you need to check in with an eye doctor depends on your age and health. A rough guideline is:

  • Ages 20-29: Once during the time span
  • Ages 30-39: Twice during the time span
  • Ages 40-60: Once every 2-4 years
  • Ages 65+: Once every 1-2 years

During an eye exam, the first thing your doctor will do is take your full medical and surgical history. Following that, he or she will check your vision and pupils, the external appearance of your face and eyes, how your eyes move together and eye pressure. Your doctor will also examine your eyes using a specialized scope, which allows better viewing of your eyelids and eye surface. Your eyes will be dilated with drops so your doctor can take a more detailed look at internal structures of your eyes. If vision deficiencies are found, your doctor may do a test that determines if light is bending properly through the lens of your eye to determine what combination of lenses will give you the sharpest vision.

In addition, your doctor will likely screen for common eye diseases, such as glaucoma or cataracts. Depending on your health, your doctor may also look for other eye issues. For example, if you have diabetes, your doctor might look for evidence of diabetic retinopathy. Or if you’re on certain medications, your doctor may screen for toxicity or side effects.

Interestingly enough, eye exams sometimes reveal previously undiagnosed health conditions. For example, during a routine exam, your doctor may potentially discover high blood pressure, carotid artery blockages, arthritis or even syphilis – all by examining your eyes.

In general, as long as you’re healthy, it’s fine to stick with the recommended frequency for eye exams. But if you notice a change in vision, eye pain or an altered appearance of your eyes, it’s time to seek care from an eye doctor.

To find an eye doctor near you, reach out to your health insurance provider.

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