Common Questions About Eye Exams

Why should I have my eyes examined regularly?
In addition to ensuring proper eyesight, regular eye examinations allow your eye care doctor to detect and treat diseases at the earliest possible opportunity. Some diseases do not have symptoms in their early stages.

A good example is glaucoma, a common cause of vision loss in the elderly. Typically, glaucoma does not cause pain, and you don't notice a change in your vision at first. By the time your vision is affected, eye doctors can only prevent it from getting worse because the vision loss is not reversible.

If you have regular eye exams, your eye care doctor can more readily detect potential problems and prescribe proper treatments to prevent vision loss. Don't determine the need for an eye exam on whether you are seeing relatively well. Even though your vision may be clear, undetected changes can occur from high blood pressure, diabetes, and other conditions.

How often do I need eye exams?
As a rule, you should not go more than two years without having your eyes examined. Diabetic patients, people with a family history of eye diseases, and anyone whose general health is poor or who is taking medications that may have potential side effects on the eye may need an eye exam at least once a year. You and your doctor should determine the eye exam schedule that best meets your eye care needs.

Will my eyes be dilated?
Although dilation is not always performed, please expect to be dilated as part of a complete eye examination. Dilation temporarily enlarges your pupils, which enables your eye doctor to get a better look inside your eyes. This allows your doctor to check for diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. Dilated eyes are more sensitive to sunlight so it's helpful to bring sunglasses to wear afterwards. Some people find it difficult to drive safely after dilation so you might bring someone to drive you home.

When should my child have his or her first eye exam?
Children should have their first eye exam before starting school. Follow-up exams should be done every 2 to 4 years until age 20. Well-baby and well-child visits by your child's primary care provider include a health and vision check of their eyes. They will refer any concerns noted to the eye care providers at Group Health.

Do I need a special eye exam as I get close to, or past, age 40?
You don't need a special eye exam over age 40, but it's critical that you have your regular eye exam at least every two years. As we get older, it is normal to have difficulty reading without glasses. We are also more susceptible to certain eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration.

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