Though most Americans have grown up with the understanding that they need to see their doctor at least once a year and their dentist every six months for a regular check-up, many overlook the critical importance of caring for their visual health.

While most health-conscious people would find it neglectful to fail to see their doctor or dentist every year, these same people often think nothing of failing to see an eye care professional for an annual exam.

In failing to do so, they unwittingly run the risk of jeopardizing not only their visual health, but also their overall health due to the intimate relationship between the eye and other parts of the body.

With this in mind, here are five reasons to commit to an annual visit with your eye care specialist:

The eye screenings that you may receive from your family doctor or even at your pharmacy (or your kids may receive at their school) are no substitute for a comprehensive vision exam.

While a visual screening (most commonly associated with the traditional eye chart) is a good first step in determining whether a person is nearsighted or farsighted and may need corrective eyewear, its effectiveness generally ends there.

Equating an eye screening with a comprehensive visual exam is the equivalent of thinking that when your family doctor listens to your heart with a stethoscope, looks in your ears with an auriscope, and looks into your mouth with the use of a tongue-depressor that this alone is sufficient to get an accurate picture of your overall health.

To get an accurate reading on your overall health, not only would your family doctor need to review your family history, a host of lifestyle factors, and any symptoms you might be experiencing, they would also need to conduct urinalysis and blood work to accurately assess your health from the “inside out.”

In this sense, a comprehensive vision exam looks at your visual health from the inside out, allowing your eye care professional to literally look inside your eye to assess its function and wellbeing.

Because almost all visual problems or diseases develop very gradually and thus present without symptoms in their early stages, it is critical to catch – and treat them – as early as possible.

Some of the most common (and most serious) eye problems and diseases are not recognized by those suffering from them until they are in fairly advanced stages. (Examples include macular degeneration, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy.)

Especially if you are over the age of 50 or are diabetic, it is incredibly important to receive regular, comprehensive vision exams to allow your doctor to diagnose and treat these conditions with the greatest possible chance of success. 

Cataracts, typically the most easily and successfully treated of these conditions, may go unnoticed by patients even in their more advanced stages of formation. When detected by a comprehensive exam and treated, the improvement in vision quality can be so dramatic that patients marvel at how they failed to recognize the gradual deterioration of their eyesight.

A comprehensive eye exam can diagnose much more than eye problems or diseases

The retina, the area at the back of eye, is the only location in the body in which blood vessels can be viewed directly. Not only can ocular pathology (eye problems) be seen through a retinal examination (a standard part of a comprehensive vision exam), other conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and stroke can also be detected due to the symptomatic changes they produce in ocular blood vessels.

In other words, though a comprehensive vision exam, your eye care professional may be able to diagnose heart problems, diabetes, and other serious medical issues long before your family doctor, allowing you to receive early treatment or to make lifestyle changes that may arrest or even reverse the progression of these diseases.

It may be time to update your corrective vision wear

Nothing in the body remains static or unchanging, including your vision. Especially if you’re over the age of 40, the vision you had even five years ago likely isn’t the vision you have today, and it may be time to update your prescription for corrective eyewear. (Or, if you’re one of the lucky ones, it may be the first time in your life that you find yourself with the need for corrective eyewear.)

Over the age of 40, it’s not uncommon that your eyewear prescription may change from year to year (and that you may start noticing a need for reading glasses). Taking care to receive an annual comprehensive exam can ensure that your eyewear prescription accurately reflects any changes to your vision, allowing you to see as sharply as possible.

If you’re a contact lens wearer, this can also be a good opportunity for your eye care professional to assess how your eyes are responding to the particular type and brand of contact you’ve been wearing, and to make adjustments as necessary. (For example, contact lens wearers’ with sensitive or dry eyes often find that switching to disposable, “daily wear” lenses relieves irritation and discomfort.)

At EyeCare 20/20, we’re full-service vision health providers who make it our business to ensure you have happy and healthy eyes. For any of your eye care needs from corrective eyewear to permanent vision correction to dry eye treatment, give us a call today and see why we’re known as being the friendliest, most comprehensive, and most advanced eye care providers around!

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