For adults in their 40s and beyond, a regular eye exam is an important part of maintaining your overall health and making your vision last a lifetime. Without an eye exam, critical health issues can be overlooked until it’s too late. Some eye diseases have no symptoms until the condition is advanced and difficult, or even impossible, to treat. Adults 19 to 64 should have an eye exam at least every two years, and people with diabetes or age 65 or older should have an exam at least once a year. Other health conditions assessed by your Doctor of Optometry may also warrant more frequent eye examinations.
Your eyes are a window to your overall health, and an eye exam can also uncover underlying—and life-threatening—health issues, such as Type 2 diabetes, brain tumours, cancer of the eye, high blood pressure and certain vascular diseases.
Many people in B.C. have avoided serious sight impairment, blindness and other serious health issues by making an appointment with a Doctor of Optometry. You can meet some of them by watching this BCAO television ad, which features the stories of real B.C. residents whose eye exams uncovered serious health issues.
A complete vision and eye health exam starts with a series of questions to determine your general health, your family health history, any medication you may be taking and the types of visual tasks your lifestyle demands.
Using a variety of specialized equipment, your Doctor of Optometry will fully evaluate the health of your eyes, inside and out. They will perform a series of tests, assessing specific neurological functions such as colour vision, depth perception and field of vision. They test for common conditions such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia, and test muscle function, depth perception and how the eyes work together. And if needed, they will advise you on the corrective lens options most suitable to your needs.
People with diabetes, and people at a risk for diabetes, should make sure to schedule an eye exam.
Eye exams are a crucial part of health care for people with diabetes. Changes in the eye due to diabetes can be detected during eye exams and are often the first indication that a person may have the disease.
Almost one-third of people with diabetes (type I or II) will eventually develop diabetic retinopathy, a condition that occurs when the blood vessels inside the eye are damaged. Without treatment, it can cause blindness over time, and in the early stages, there may not be symptoms. People with diabetes are also at risk for glaucoma, cataracts and retinal detachment. Your B.C. Doctor of Optometry can help identify these problems early, and provide treatment to minimize the damage to your vision.
For helpful links, tips and resources on diabetes-related conditions and how to reduce your risk, visit the Helpful Links page.
People over the age of 40 may be at an increased risk for age-related eye conditions, some of which may have no visible symptoms.
Our eyes change as we age, with some changes occurring as early as in our 40s. Because many age-related conditions have no symptoms, it’s important to talk to your Doctor of Optometry about preventive measures.
The most common eye problems among adults include:
Presbyopia: a natural effect of aging in which the ability to focus on close objects decreases over time. Presbyopia can cause headaches, blurred vision, tearing, stinging or the need for more light.
Glaucoma: a “silent thief” that often has no symptoms until significant damage has occurred. Glaucoma is caused by elevated pressure within the eye, and can lead to serious vision loss if not detected and treated at an early stage.
Cataracts: distorted or cloudy vision caused by the lens inside the eye losing its transparency over time. Cataracts can require changes to your glasses or surgical removal.
Macular degeneration: a disease that results in degenerative changes to your central vision, and a leading cause of vision loss among older adults.
For helpful links, tips and resources on age-related eye problems and how you can preserve your sight as you age, visit the Helpful Links page.
People who work or play outdoors are at increased risk for ultraviolet radiation damage from the sun.
Protecting your eyes from ultraviolet (UV) radiation is just as important as putting on sunscreen to protect your skin. Many age-related eye diseases, such as cataracts and macular degeneration, may be partially caused by UV exposure throughout your life; protecting your eyes from UV today may save your vision tomorrow.
Light skin, eye pigmentation and certain medications, such as oral contraceptives and some antibiotics, can affect how susceptible you are to ultraviolet light. Your Doctor of Optometry can make specific recommendations to ensure your eyes are well-protected from harmful effects. Learn more about how to protect your eyes outdoors and during recreational activities by visiting the Helpful Links page.
People who use computers frequently are more susceptible to a number of eye problems.
Computers are an integral part of our lives, but they can cause eye problems, such as blurred vision and tired, dry, red, sore or watery eyes. Your Doctor of Optometry can perform an eye examination to determine the cause of your symptoms. Even small refractive errors in your eyes can affect how efficiently and comfortably you can work at the computer. They can also help you minimize eye problems by recommending specialized “task-specific” lenses or anti-reflective coatings for your eyewear. For tips and resources on staying comfortable in front of the computer, please visit the Helpful Links page.
There are a host of other risk factors for certain eye conditions, including: having a family history of eye problems; being a smoker; having high blood pressure; being extremely nearsighted; and many more. Everyone should have their eyes examined by a Doctor of Optometry, whether they are considered higher-risk or not.
The best thing you can do for your eye health is to schedule regular visits with your B.C. Doctor of Optometry. Their comprehensive vision and eye health examinations keep you ahead of the vision-related changes you will experience as you age, and identify potential vision problems in time to prevent and address them. Learn more about how an eye exam can protect your vision at any age.
People who are unable to communicate and tell anyone that there is vision loss or eye pain. Learn more
A comprehensive eye exam is important for everyone, including people that are not able to speak or communicate. In fact, regular eye check-ups are more important for someone who is not able to communicate, because if a problem does arise, this person is not able to tell us that there is vision loss or eye pain. Without an eye examination, a serious eye problem could be missed and permanent vision loss could result. Loss of vision means loss of mobility, functioning and independence.
If someone is not able to communicate verbally, your Doctor of Optometry can still do a complete eye examination and get the results necessary to determine an eyeglass prescription and to determine that the eyes are healthy. With their specialized equipment, your Doctor of Optometry can prescribe glasses, even if someone is unable to answer the question, “Which is lens is clearer, one or two?” It is also possible to determine if the eyes are working together and to check the internal and external health of the eyes. With the cooperation of the patient, your optometrist can also measure the eye pressure to check for glaucoma.
Therefore, for those who are unable to communicate, including young children, elderly people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, those affected by stroke or those with cognitive disability, it is still possible for your Doctor of Optometry to do a complete eye exam. Eye exams should be done annually or sooner if there appears to be any change in mobility or functioning, as these people are unable to communicate when a problem does arise. Good vision allows us to learn, allows us to recognize people around us, and allows for mobility and independence. What could be more important?
A sight test is not an eye exam
A sight test by an optician is not the same as a comprehensive eye exam by a Doctor of Optometry. A sight test determines a lens refraction or power by relying on a combination of computerized tests using automated equipment. The comprehensiveness and accuracy of these automated sight tests is limited, and they are unable to address issues such as eye muscle co-ordination, eye fixation and alignment and corneal or lens irregularities. They do not examine the internal workings of the eye and will not identify underlying conditions and diseases that may be present.
Opticians are not allowed to sight-test children under the age of 19, or people 65 or older. They are also prohibited from testing people ages 19 to 64 who have diabetes, glaucoma or a history of other diseases that may affect the health of their eyes.
In 2010 new regulations allow opticians to dispense eyeglasses and contact lenses from an independent “sight-test”. This removes the eye health examination by a Doctor of Optometry or ophthalmologist which could determine if there are underlying eye or overall health problems that the patient is not aware of. As well, internet companies selling eyeglasses and contact lenses no longer have to verify with the prescriber to ensure the prescription is correct.
Only an eye exam conducted by a Doctor of Optometry can give you a complete and accurate picture of your eye health.