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How Often Should I Get an Eye Exam?

Getting an eye exam regularly can help you correct vision problems and protect your eyesight. Just how often you should get one depends on your age, eye health, whether you wear glasses or contact lenses, and other factors.

In this post, we’ll explain the key factors that determine how often you should get your eyes tested. We’ll also review the main procedures a complete eye exam usually involves.

So, How Often Should I Get My Eyes Checked?

Getting your eyes checked regularly is a good way to catch eye diseases early, which makes them easier to manage and reduces the risk of vision loss. Even in the case of an incurable eye disease, an early diagnosis enables treatment that helps preserve vision for longer.

Between the ages of 18 and 60, having a complete eye exam at least every two years will help you maintain healthy vision. You’ll also be able to correct any refractive errors early.

Being older, wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses, or having one or more eye health risk factors may require you to visit an eye doctor more often.

When to Get Eyes Checked More Often

Age, eye diseases in the family, or certain medical treatments increase your risk for eye disease. Here are some situations in which it’s important to get your eyes checked.

If You Wear Glasses or Contact Lenses

Prescriptions for eyeglasses or contact lenses usually expire after a year or two. During this time, your eyes may change. To ensure that your corrective lenses provide sharp vision, it’s important to get your eyes tested. Your doctor will update your prescription if necessary.

woman wearing eyeglasses before blurry whiteboard

When You Turn 40

The lens of the eye becomes less flexible with age, affecting your near vision. Eyesight tends to deteriorate with age, and vision changes may begin as early as 40. After this age, eye diseases are also more likely to appear. For all these reasons, it’s good to have a full eye exam after you turn 40 and then follow-ups as often as your eye doctor considers necessary.

After 60

Some people may experience visual decline after the age of 60. The risk for serious eye diseases that may cause vision loss further increases. At the same time, lens prescriptions may change more often. After 60, it’s good to get your eyes checked every year or more often if your doctor recommends it.

Have Eye Diseases in the Family

According to Research to Prevent Blindness, there are over 350 hereditary eye diseases including glaucoma, night blindness, and corneal dystrophies. Some hereditary eye diseases are progressive and may cause vision loss. Your eye doctor may screen you for certain genes and closely monitor your vision for signs of disease. If you have eye diseases running in the family, having an eye exam regularly can bring you peace of mind.

Have a Chronic Disease That Can Cause Eye Complications

Diabetes may cause diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to vision changes and blindness. High blood pressure may damage the blood vessels in the eyes. Other diseases that may cause eye health complications include Lyme disease, autoimmune disorders, and liver diseases. Regular visits to your eye health doctor may be needed to evaluate the impact of these conditions on your eyes.

Take Medication or Had Surgery Affecting Your Eyes

Having had eye surgery or taking antihistamines, antidepressants, birth control pills, and other medication can cause eye health problems. For example, antihistamines may cause dry eyes. Eye surgeries too often require follow-ups that may involve complete eye exams.

What Is an Eye Test?

A complete eye test will measure your visual acuity, eye pressure, and the overall health of your eyes. It will determine whether you need corrective lenses to see better, for example, if you have myopia (near-sightedness) or hyperopia (far-sightedness). By measuring your internal eye pressure, it will ascertain whether you may suffer from a serious eye condition or be at risk of developing one, such as glaucoma.

doctor in white coat performing eye exam on seated woman

During a full eye test, your eye doctor will use bright light and images to evaluate the health of the front and inner part of the eye, including the retina. Depending on your age, health, past eye problems, and other factors, an eye exam may involve several eye tests.

  • Visual acuity test – Your doctor will ask you to read letters or numbers of different sizes placed at some distance to determine how clearly you can see.
  • Refraction test – This test measures any refractive errors using a computerized refractor or retinoscopy. It determines if you need corrective lenses and if so, what lens prescription. During this test, a light may be flashed in your eye, and you may have to look through a phoropter that features different lenses.
  • Perimetry test – Also known as a visual field test, this eye exam can uncover any blind spots in your vision. It measures how much you can see out of the corners of your eyes. It’s often performed using a machine with a screen on which objects move in and out of your peripheral vision.
  • Slit-lap eye exam – Your doctor will look through a microscope that magnifies the front of your eye to examine it for any signs of damage.
  • Retinal exam – After dilating your eyes with eye drops, your doctor will use an ophthalmoscope or condensing lens to see the back of your eye.
  • Eye muscle test – Involves following a moving light or object with your eyes. It determines whether your eye muscles function normally.
  • Color vision test – During this test, you have to recognize shapes and numbers within multicolored patterns of dots. People with color blindness may not be able to distinguish the colors red and green or blue and yellow.
  • Glaucoma screening – Lastly, your doctor may use a tonometer to measure the pressure inside your eye. High intraocular pressure may damage the optic nerve, causing glaucoma.

Good to know: During an eye exam, your eye doctor may use eye drops to widen the pupil in order to view the back of your eye more clearly. After the exam, sunlight and glare may bother you, so it’s good to take a pair of sunglasses with you.

Tip: After a complete eye exam that includes the dilation of your pupils, you could take a cab or ask someone to drive you back home. You may experience blurriness that may make it harder to drive safely.

Who Performs an Eye Test?

Eye tests are performed by optometrists or ophthalmologists. Both of these can perform complete eye exams, diagnose and treat eye disease, and prescribe corrective lenses. But ophthalmologists are best qualified to treat serious eye diseases. They can also determine whether you may need eye surgery.

Opticians are technicians who can help you find the right eyeglasses or contact lenses for your vision problem. However, they are not allowed to give you eye exams or treat eye diseases. For an eye exam, you have to see an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

Test Your Eyes at Home

While seeing your eye doctor at least once every two years is recommended, you can also take a quick question-based dry eye test online.

Dry eye is a common but often underdiagnosed condition that causes a host of eye symptoms. If you’ve already experienced some of them, your eyes are sending you a signal. You may want to make some lifestyle changes, eat food that is healthy for your eyes, and take an eye health supplement.

Find out whether you may have dry eyes. It takes only a few minutes. Take the Dry Eye Test.