Your vision is one of the most important aspects of your health. Unfortunately, not everyone takes care of their eyes like they should. The best way to make sure your eyes are healthy is by seeing your optometrist for regular examinations. However, the frequency in which you should have your eyes examined depends on age. Per the Canadian Association of Optometrists, infants and toddlers should have their first eye exam between 6 and 9 months; while children between the ages of 2 and 5 should undergo at least one eye exam, while children and teenagers aged 6 to 19 should have their eyes examined every year. By the age of 20 through 39, it’s recommended that you have your eyes examined every 2 to 3 years, and every 2 years for those aged 40 to 64. By 65, it’s recommended to undergo yearly eye exams. It’s also important to note that just because you don’t notice any problems with your eyes doesn’t mean that’s a reason to skip eye exams. This is because many eye-related conditions aren’t always accompanied with symptoms and can only be detected by your optometrist. Failing to have your eyes examined regularly can expose you to risk of further (and sometimes irreversible) eye problems.
During a comprehensive eye exam, your optometrist will look for any changes in your vision as well as different diseases, including glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, or diabetic retinopathy. As mentioned, these are some of the eye diseases that have very minimal symptoms until they have progressed, therefore early detection is key in saving your eyesight. Other common conditions that optometrists see in their patients include dry eye and astigmatism.
Dry eye is a condition that occurs when you do not produce enough tears, leading to symptoms such as stinging or burning, the feeling as if something is in your eye, eye redness, light sensitivity, blurred vision, and eye fatigue. There are many reasons why dry eye might occur. For some, it’s simply a matter of infrequent tear production. For others, it can be the result of certain medical conditions, medications, and even aging. You’re also at risk of developing dry eyes if you’re a female, or if your diet is low in Vitamin A. If left untreated, dry eye can cause damage to the surface of your eyes, including inflammation as well as abrasions to the corneal surface, and even corneal ulcers, in addition to the potential of developing eye infections, so it’s something you’ll want to treat sooner than later. The good news is that treatment for dry eye is quite simple. First, you need to be aware of your environment. At higher altitudes, air tends to be dry. To add more moisture into the air, try using a humidifier. If you frequently use the computer, make sure you take breaks. Optometrists also recommend using artificial tears (eye drops) to help keep your eyes lubricated. These drops can often be used 3 or 4 times per day and should be used every single day. It’s not uncommon to experience burning when first using these drops, as the drier your eyes are, the more likely they are to sting your eyes. However, as your eyes gets used to the drops and become more lubricated, the burning should dissipate. If it doesn’t, then you may want to switch to an eye drop that is preservative-free. If you’re not sure which type of eye drops to buy, ask your optometrist what they recommend. Pharmacists can also be helpful.
Astigmatism is another common condition that individuals will develop. This occurs when the surface of the eye (the cornea) or the lens doesn’t curve in the way that it should. As a result of this curve, light enters the eye and doesn’t correctly focus on the retina, which results in blurred vision. Other common symptoms of astigmatism include headaches, and eye strain. The most common way to treat astigmatisms is through corrective lenses (eyeglasses or contacts) or refractive surgery (laser eye surgery, also known as lasik.)
In addition to detecting these common eye problems, it’s also possible for optometrists to detect certain health conditions just by examining your eyes. These conditions include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and even some types of cancer.