Do you need to squint to read a website or the menu in a dimly lit restaurant? Have you been heading to meetings earlier to nab a seat close to the screen when there’s a presentation at work? Finding that it’s harder to drive at night? Do your eyes feel uncomfortable and do you often get headaches by the end of the day? If so – and you already know this – it’s time for an eye exam.
You’re likely to be hearing a lot about the importance of eye exams over the next few weeks, as May is Healthy Vision Month.
According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), the most common reason for not getting an exam is assuming that you don’t have an eye problem. But many eye diseases don’t have overt symptoms in their early stages, the only way to spot them is with a comprehensive eye exam. Skipping that exam that may result in missing the early signs of an eye disease that will become much harder to treat effectively over time.
What Is a Comprehensive Eye Exam?
According to the NEI, those aged 60 and up should have a comprehensive exam annually, while younger people should have one at least once a decade, starting in their 20s. Your eye care provider may wish to see you more often, particularly if you have a health condition such as diabetes, so it’s best to follow his or her advice in scheduling check-ups.
One big difference between the basic read-the-eye-chart exam and a comprehensive exam is eye dilation. Getting your eyes dilated is painless. Drops are placed in each eye to widen your pupils. After your pupils are dilated, your eyes are examined using a special magnifying lens that enables your eye doctor to check the health of each eye’s retina, macula (light sensitive area at the back of your retina), and optic nerve.
After an eye dilation exam, you may feel a little disoriented. This is because we’re accustomed to having our eyes automatically adjust to the intensity of the light around us – closing (contracting) when we’re in a brightly lit environment and opening (dilating) in low light conditions. But until the effect of the drops wear off – typically 4-8 hours for adults and a day or so for children – your eyes won’t contract in response to light. Bring sunglasses with you to protect your eyes, and try to have a friend with you in case you feel a bit woozy. It’s best not to drive yourself home.
And be aware that some adults’ eyes will need longer than 8 hours to return to normal function after dilation, so try to schedule your appointment on a day when you don’t have anything critical to do on the following day.
Ophthalmologist, Optometrist or Optician?
An ophthalmologist is a doctor who specializes in eye and vision care. He or she has completed college and at least eight years of additional medical training, and is licensed to practice medicine and surgery. An ophthalmologist diagnoses and treats all eye diseases (though some ophthalmologists specialize in a particular eye condition), performs eye surgery and prescribes and fits eyeglasses and contact lenses to correct vision problems.
An optometrist is licensed to practice optometry, which primarily involves the diagnosis, treatment, and management of vision changes. He or she performs eye exams and vision tests, prescribes corrective lenses, and can prescribe medications for eye diseases. An optometrist holds a doctor of optometry (OD) degree, and has completed four years of optometry school, preceded by three or more years of college.
An optician is trained to fit and adjust devices that correct eyesight problems, such as eyeglass lenses and frames, and contact lenses. Opticians do not perform eye exams, or diagnose or treat eye diseases.
How To Keep Your Eyes Healthy
Maintain a healthy weight: and eat foods like fish and dark leafy green vegetables to lower your risk of eye disease. And don’t smoke—it’s as bad for your eyes as it is for the rest of your body.
Know Your Family History: Some eye diseases are hereditary. If your family members have experienced eye disease, let your optometrist or ophthalmologist know.
Be Safe: Use safety glasses or goggles as needed to protect your eyes at work, when you play a sport, or have a hobby that could pose a danger to your eyes. Follow your own common sense and the best practice safety instructions associated with your job or the activity you’re involved in.
Wear Sunglasses: Protect your eyes by choosing sunglasses that block out 99 to 100% of both UVA and UVB radiation.
Affordable Eye Care
More than 11 million Americans currently have an uncorrected visual impairment that can impact their quality of life, according to the NEI. Many skip getting help for their eye problems because they feel that they can’t afford to get an eye exam and corrective lenses.
DentalPlans.com offers affordable alternatives to traditional health insurance, including vision care savings plans. These plans enable members to save significantly on the cost of eye exams, glasses, contact lenses, even LASIK surgery at thousands of eye care facilities – both national chains and local providers – nationwide. And many dental plans include a vision care plan at no extra cost, enabling you to save on both dental and vision care.
To find out more about vison care savings plans, visit dentalplans.com or call 1-800-238-5163.