Guidelines for Eye Exams

Are yearly checkups enough, or is it smart to have more frequent vision checks?

Female optometrist examining mans eyes
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According to most eye doctors, almost everyone should get their eyes checked once a year whether they wear glasses, contacts, or have perfect vision every time they read the eye chart. For one thing, eye exams are more than simple vision checks. A comprehensive eye examination is a fairly complicated series of tests for evaluating not only eyesight but also neurological function, eye pressure, eye muscle coordination, and the health of the external and internal eye structures.

In fact, there are some people who should see a vision specialist more than once per year, such as those with hypertension, allergies, arthritis, and diabetes. These basic guidelines will help you figure out how often you and the rest of your family need to to see an optometrist or opthalmologist—but of course, you should always defer to the advice of a doctor.

Guidelines for Adults

Adults under 40 with no family history of eye disease and who have good vision usually are advised that it's fine to have an eye exam every two to three years. In today’s world, however, technology has greatly increased the demands on our eyes. At the very least, if you're under 40 and notice you're struggling to read texts on your phone, for example, it wouldn't be a good idea to schedule a vision check even if you aren't technically due for one.

At 40, everyone should have a baseline eye exam. That's because this is the age at which most people begin to notice changes in close-up vision (that's you if you start to hold things you're reading further and further from your face), and when early signs of eye disease are likely to appear.

Obviously, if you notice anything different or strange about your eyes or your vision, see a doctor immediately. If you have a family history of eye disease, then annual eye exams are definitely important.

After the age of 40, it's probably fine to have an eye exam every 18 months, but at 60 your doctor will likely advise you to go back to yearly exams because of the increased risk of cataractsglaucomamacular degeneration and other eye diseases.

When Kids Should Start Getting Eye Exams

Most pediatricians screen babies and young children for eye problems at around 6 months and again at age 3. Between ages 4 and 6, kids should have a comprehensive eye exam, as this is when most are starting school. It's especially important to catch vision problems before a child is in school, even nursery school or kindergarten, because if she isn't able to see well it can set her up for behavior problems, trouble learning, and poor grades. Between 6 and 18, kids should have an eye exam every two years as long as no vision problems crop up. 

Caring For Your Eyes If You Have Diabetes

People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy. And diabetes is the third leading cause of blindness in the United States. Early detection is critical for treating diabetes-related eye disease. If you have well-controlled diabetes, a dilated eye examination is mandatory every year. If medication isn't keeping your diabetes under control, your doctor may recommend an examination every three to six months.

Advice For People Who Wear Contact Lenses 

If you wear contact lenses, an annual eye exam and contact lens evaluation are necessary for very good reasons: Besides making sure your prescription is up-to-date, eye doctors check the health of the eye, the curvature of the cornea and inspect the eye for microscopic complications related to wearing a contact lens.

Abnormal blood vessel growth related to a lack of oxygen to the cornea is another thing that your eye doctor may check for at your annual contact lens examination.