Do You Still Need Your Annual Dilated Eye Exams?

Your refractive surgery was a great success and you no longer need glasses or contact lenses to see! You may think you won’t need another eye exam until you’re old, gray, and have cataracts, right? Wrong!

The eye is a wonderfully complex organ that requires much more than glasses or contacts to allow you to see. In fact, only a small, central portion of the eye is dedicated to giving you 20/20 vision. The rest of the eye communicates with your brain to let you know which way is up, catch an oncoming vehicle in your periphery, and even control the eye movements necessary for reading. Without early detection through dilated eye exams, most eye diseases such as glaucoma or macular degeneration will cause irreversible damage before your 20/20 vision is affected. While these are more common later in life, eye diseases can show up even in children. A dilated eye exam can detect non-visual problems as well. By looking at the nerve and blood vessels inside your eye, an optometrist or ophthalmologist can find signs of diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, multiple sclerosis, or even cancer. Similarly, not all “pink eyes” are infectious. They may be a sign of an auto-immune disease like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. In many of these conditions, early detection is critical to prevent further damage.

The American Academy of Optometry recommends a dilated eye exam for patients 18-60 years old every 2 years for those who have no known ocular risk and every 1 to 2 years or as recommended for those at risk. Those 61 years and older should have an eye exam yearly even if no risks are noted. At risk includes “those with  diabetes, hypertension, a family history of ocular disease, or whose clinical findings increase their potential risk; those working in occupations that are highly demanding visually or are eye hazardous; those taking prescription or nonprescription drugs with ocular side effects; those wearing contact lenses; those who have had eye surgery; and those with other health concerns or conditions. Vision is a valuable gift worth protecting. Besides, you know you can’t wait to get those roll up sunglasses to keep in your car!!