Needing glasses and contact lenses can be a real hassle. Buying them is expensive and you need an updated prescription to order them. It is what makes online eyewear stores so appealing. But, in trying to convince you of their convenience and general awesomeness they tell you, perhaps only subtly, that it is okay to skip your annual eye exam with your eye doctor.
And that is just plain wrong.
A routine, comprehensive eye exam can detect vision problems, eye disease, and general health problems before you are aware a problem exists. It is recommended that adults have a comprehensive eye exam – not just a vision screening for visual acuity – every 1-2 years.
The demands on our eyes are greater than they have ever been. Making sure your eyes are up to those challenges is the job of an eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist). Here are a few of the biggest daily threats to the health of your eyes that make an annual eye exam a must:
Eye Exam Reason #1: Dry Eyes
Did you know dry eye symptoms are one of the top reasons people go to the eye doctor? And that’s a good thing because the burning, irritation and general discomfort associated with dry eye isn’t something you should “just live with.” Sure, there are home remedies you can try to help manage the symptoms, but it is important to understand the underlying reason why you are having them in the first place. Dry eyes are more than uncomfortable, they can impact your vision and the overall health of your eye. Dry eye vision is blurry vision and ongoing irritation can lead to significant damage to your cornea. There have been significant advancements in the diagnosis and treatment of dry eye, so, don’t ignore those dry eye symptoms – get them checked out by your eye doctor.
Eye Exam Reason #2: Digital Eye Strain
Today just about everything we do involves a screen: computers, phones, e-readers, game consoles, televisions, tablets. A lot of screens. Our use of digital devices has fundamentally changed one of the basic functions of our eyes: how we blink. And it turns out, blinking is essential to the health of your eyes. The act of blinking releases a lubricating substance from tiny glands along the eyelids to help slow the evaporation of the tear film over the eye. When we stare at our screens, we blink a lot slower than normal (you know you do). Without regular blinking, those glands don’t get used properly and can clog up. The result is the tear film evaporates quickly and you wind up with dry eye symptoms.
Eye Exam Reason #3: Sun Damage
Every day we are exposed to UV sun rays. While sun damage is more closely linked to skin cancer, the threat to your eyes is just as significant. Wearing UV-blocking sunglasses is important (Pro Tip: Look for sunglasses labeled UV 400). Your annual eye exam screens for the potential risks from sun exposure including macular degeneration and cataracts.
Eye Exam Reason #4: Allergies
Sure, not everyone has allergies. But, the incidence is certainly on the rise as a result of increased pollen and allergen counts. Anyone who suffers from hay fever and other allergies knows how vulnerable the eyes are to the burning, itching, redness, and general irritation. Managing those symptoms is best done with a trusted eye doctor. She can make sure you aren’t accidentally causing damage (don’t scratch, rub, or otherwise touch your eyes) and prescribe medicine to help you manage.
Eye Exam Reason #5: Vision Correction
Vision problems, nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism, need routine check-ups with your eye doctor. First, you want to make sure you are seeing as well as possible and your prescription is up to date. Second, if you are wearing contacts, your eye doctor needs to carefully monitor the health of your eyes. The fact is, wearing contacts comes with certain risks. They reduce the amount of oxygen to the surface of the eye and can also interfere with those lubricating glands we mentioned earlier. Your doctor needs to see you to make sure everything is functioning normally and that your tear film and eye are healthy.
Today, life is busy, and making and keeping your annual eye exam – particularly if you have vision problems – is important. Yes, it is a disruption to your day. And, really, you just want to get your prescription so you can get your glasses or contacts. But, everyone needs to have a thorough evaluation of their eyes on a regular basis to ensure their good health and the ability to see well for a lifetime.