Do you Need an Eye Doctor?
Everyone needs an eye doctor to evaluate eye health and catch problems early while they are still the most treatable. Although infants’ eyes are typically checked at birth, a six-month-baby should have another eye exam at this time as well.
Some optometrists specialize in eye exams for children, although any licensed eye doctor can examine your baby. The eye doctor will check your baby for signs of nearsightedness, farsightedness, normal tracking and eye alignment.
Particularly if your child was born prematurely, the eye doctor will also check your child’s retina for signs of damage associated with an early birth called ROP or retinopathy of prematurity. Special drops to dilate the child’s pupil will be required for this.
Although babies are somewhat frequently born with crossed eyes called strabismus, if this condition persists after six months of age, treatment may be necessary to avoid permanent vision problems in the future.
It’s easy to schedule an appointment for your baby, yourself and your whole family. As a rule, you will need an eye exam every one to two years, but your eye care professional may recommend a different schedule for you or a family member.
For example, if your child needs eyeglasses, this will probably require more frequent visits because kids’ eyes are rapidly changing and growing along with the rest of them. Your child may need an adjustment to their eyeglass prescription without realizing it or reporting it to you.
Eye Exams for Adults
Even if you’re not having any problems and can see well, you should still visit your eye doctor for the same reason you visit your family doctor or internist. Any problems caught early may preserve or even save your vision.
In fact, evidence of systemic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure may show up in the eyes first.
Glaucoma, Diabetes and Macular Degeneration
Glaucoma, a serious eye condition involving excessive pressure within the eyeball, generally has no symptoms as it quietly destroys your optic nerve and your sight. Untreated glaucoma can blind. It’s sometimes called “the thief in the night” due its typical lack of warning symptoms.
A simple, painless test for internal eye pressure is always part of any eye exam. Glaucoma cannot be cured, but it can be treated and managed to keep your eye pressure within normal range. This usually means using special eye drops, but some forms of glaucoma may be treated with surgery.
Diabetes is another silent disease. Although it may cause symptoms in some people, such as unexplained weight loss, frequent urination, thirst, hunger and fatigue, many people with this condition don’t even know it.
This is dangerous to your eyes because they are particularly susceptible to the high levels of blood sugar present in someone with unmanaged diabetes. This excessive blood sugar damages the delicate blood vessels at the back of the eye in an area called the retina and can lead to blindness.
Your eye doctor can see this damage and recommend further evaluation and treatment to protect your sight. Once these vessels are damaged beyond a certain point, it’s usually permanent.
Diabetes probably has a genetic component. If this disease is present in your family, especially in first-degree relatives, meaning mother, father, biological sibling or grandparents on either side, you should be cautious and be sure to get regular eye exams. Keeping your weight within normal limits and eating a healthy diet low in refined and simple sugars are good ideas, too.
Macular degeneration is another eye disease your eye doctor may spot before it causes serious damage to your retina. Newer biological treatments in the form of injections into the eye have had significant success in halting retinal damage from macular degeneration if caught early.
The damage comes from new blood vessels growing underneath the retina that are not supposed to be there. These vessels both distort your vision and break open and bleed, irritating and damaging the area.
These are just a very few reasons why regular eye doctor visits are so important.
Another excellent reason for annual eye exams is to check your visual acuity. It may not be as good as it should be or could be, and you may not even realize this. Even people with otherwise good vision can still have astigmatism, a blurring of the vision caused by abnormally shaped areas of the eyeball.
Corrective lenses will eliminate this blurring so you see the sharp images you should.
As people approach their early 40s or so, they may notice they can no longer read or do up-close activities very well because their vision is blurry, even though distance vision remains unchanged.
This is called presbyopia and is a normal part of the aging process. Your eye doctor can prescribe special eyeglasses called progressives for you to wear while doing activities that require good near vision.
Even if you don’t need corrective lenses, and your eyes are healthy, the peace of mind you get from the normal results of an eye exam is reason enough to see your eye doctor for regular annual eye exams.