Eye exams are an important part of eye health and safety. Beginning at six months of age, having a regular eye exam needs to be part of your annual health assessment, especially from a disease prevention perspective. Eye exams go well beyond just measuring vision.
Here are the top 4 reasons eye exams are important, and why you need a regular eye exam to insure good eye health and safety.
1. Myopia is more common than most think
Stats say that in the past 50 years we have become increasingly myopic (near objects are seen clearly, but distant objects appear blurred). When I was an elementary student in the 1960s, it seemed only a few children wore glasses. Since then, and on a continuing basis, the number of children and adults who develop myopia is growing faster than ever before. This is a concern because if myopia is left unchecked, particularly for children, the condition tends to worsen and progress. Unchecked myopia is also linked to an increase in the risk of cataracts, glaucoma and even retinal detachment. A regular exam is the best way to assess the risk of myopia and catch it early on to reduce the risk of chronic visions problems later in life.
In addition to myopia, your optometrist can detect other conditions during an eye exam, such as:
- Farsightedness – distant objects are easier to see than near objects. The extra effort required to see clearly at close range can cause blur, fatigue, muscle tension, discomfort and headaches.
- Astigmatism – either the cornea and/or the lens inside the eye is slightly irregular or cylindrical in shape, resulting in vision being blurred or distorted at all distances.
- Amblyopia (lazy eye) – can result from a large difference in the prescription between the two eyes, resulting in two different image sizes. Because the image that is sent to the brain from the affected eye is poor, the brain will ignore this eye. If detected and treated before age six, it will often resolve completely.
- Strabismus (crossed eyes) – results in double vision or the suppression of the image from the affected eye. There are a variety of reasons, one or both of your eyes may turn in, out, up or down.
- Presbyopia – a natural effect of aging, usually occurring after the age of 40, in which the ability to focus on close objects decreases over time. It can cause headaches, blurred vision, tired eyes and the need for more light.
2. An eye exam reveals other vision and health problems.
Did you know many common eye diseases have no early signs or symptoms? During an eye exam your optometrist examines the tissues and structures inside the eye, looking for eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma or macular degeneration, as well as tears in the retina, bleeding and tumors.
Your optometrist is also looking for early signs of serious medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular disease during an exam.
3. Eye exams help students of all ages succeed.
Being a student – of any age – requires good vision. Because 80% of learning is visual, it’s important to ensure your vision is not impaired. Unfortunately, children with vision problems are often misdiagnosed as having learning or behavioural disabilities.
Good vision is a leading indicator for success at school, at work, and during extra-curricular activities, too.
4. Sight tests are not the same thing as an eye exam.
Sight tests are completed as part of getting your driver’s license. They may also be offered to students at school. People often believe their vision is fine because they have passed these tests.
The fact is that more than 43% of children who have a vision or eye health problem can pass a basic sight test. Only a comprehensive eye exam by an optometrist can ensure your vision is appropriate and your eyes are healthy.
Given everything we know about the value of an eye exam with an optometrist the action to take is clear. Don’t delay — schedule an eye exam today. (find an optometrist link)
Glyn Jones is a partner at EHS Partnerships Ltd. in Calgary. He is a consulting occupational health and safety professional with 30 years of experience. He is a regular safety conference speaker in Canada, and he provides program design and instructional support to the University of New Brunswick’s OHS certificate and diploma programs.