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Look into an eye exam

Regular eye exams can help protect your vision.

When was the last time someone sat you down, looked deep into your eyes and measured your intraocular pressure?

That's the pressure inside your eye. Measuring it can find early signs of glaucoma, one of several common eye disorders that can appear without much warning.

Like many health conditions, eye diseases often are easiest to treat when found early. It's one reason why eye experts suggest regular eye examinations—and why it might be time for you to schedule one.

A good look at your eyes

A comprehensive exam at an ophthalmologist's office can be an eye-opening experience in many ways.

People often aren't aware that their vision could be better than it is, according to the National Eye Institute (NEI). You may be surprised at how much more clearly you could be seeing.

You also might undergo some testing that literally widens your eye—or your pupils, at least. Called a dilated eye exam, it uses drops to enlarge your pupils so the doctor can more easily spot damage or eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy or glaucoma. Keep in mind that the test can leave your vision blurry for a few hours.

Other testing you can expect during a complete eye checkup:

  • A visual field test to measure your peripheral—or side—vision.
  • A light beam shined into your eyes to check pupil constriction.
  • A visual acuity test to assess how well you see at different distances.
  • A test to check for glaucoma by measuring eye pressure.

When to schedule eye checkups

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends vision exams for children:

  • At birth. All newborns should have a basic exam. Some newborns may need additional exams based on risk factors.
  • Between 6 months and 1 year of age.
  • Between 3 and 3 1/2 years of age.
  • When they start school and any time after that when a problem is suspected.

For adults, the AAO recommends comprehensive exams to screen for eye disorders at the following intervals:

  • At least one exam between ages 20 and 29.
  • At least two exams between ages 30 and 39.
  • A baseline screening for age-related disorders at age 40. (Your eye doctor will tell you how often to come in between ages 40 and 64.)
  • A complete exam at least every two years after age 65.

The above schedule is in addition to updates for lens prescriptions or treatment for eye injuries or ongoing problems.

Your eye doctor might suggest more frequent checkups if you:

  • Have a family history of eye problems.
  • Have high blood pressure or diabetes.
  • Had a previous eye injury.
  • Are an African American over age 40, which puts you at higher risk for glaucoma.

Keep your eyes healthy

There are a number of steps you can take between exams to keep your eyes healthy, according to the NEI. These include:

Ban rays. Wear protective sunglasses when outdoors. Look for shades that block 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays.

Go for goggles. Wear the appropriate protective eyewear when working around the house or playing high-impact sports.

Look away. Give your eyes a rest after staring at the computer or focusing on anything for a long period of time. The NEI suggests looking away into the distance for about 20 seconds every 20 minutes.

reviewed 12/2/2019

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