How often are you going for an eye exam? In general, many people are not going nearly as frequently as they should be. Eye exams are important to overall health and should be incorporated into your healthcare routine. However, if you or your loved ones are not already receiving regular comprehensive exams, you may have questions around what to expect, how frequently you should be going, and how they might be different from traditional eye screenings. To help alleviate your worries and answer questions you may have, we outlined the best time for you and your loved ones to go for an eye exam and what you can expect at the doctor’s office. Keep reading to learn more!

How Often Should I Get an Eye Exam?

When it comes to a timeline of when to receive an eye exam, it’s different for everyone. According to Prevent Blindness, how frequently you should be receiving exams depends on your age, ethnicity, and whether or not you are experiencing any symptoms. Below are some general guidelines that can help you decide when to visit your eye care provider.

Guidelines for Healthy Adults Without History of Eye Disease

    • Ages 20-39: You should receive an eye exam every two to five years.
    • Ages 40-69: You should get an exam every two to four years.
    • Ages 65 and older: An eye exam should be performed every one to two years.

However, it’s important to remember that there are always exceptions to the rules. If you are someone who has additional risk factors, such as diabetes, a previous eye trauma or surgery, or a family history of glaucoma, you may need to go for an eye exam more often than the suggested timeline. Patients with keratoconus require more frequent eye exams as well.

If you are a parent, the process for children is a bit different. Instead of eye exams, it’s necessary for children – newborns to teens – to receive regular eye screenings. You might be wondering what the difference is between an eye screening and eye exam. To clarify, a screening is a preliminary first step to assess who might need a comprehensive eye exam and possible treatment. An eye exam, on the other hand, diagnoses eye disorders and diseases before providing a treatment plan.

Here is a general guide for when children should receive eye screenings:

    • Newborns: A trained health professional should examine a newborn baby’s eyes and perform a reflex test.
    • Infant: A screening should be performed by a health professional at a well-child exam between six months and the first birthday.
    • Preschool: Between the ages of three to three and a half, a person trained in vision assessment should perform a screening.
    • School-age: Entering school, a child should be screened by a person trained in a vision assessment.

Similar to adults, if children have additional risk factors, they may need more frequent screenings.

What Should I Expect From an Eye Exam?

Has it been a while since your last eye exam, or are you bringing your child to the eye doctor for the first time? Knowing what to expect ahead of a scheduled appointment can help ease any potential concerns.

A typical eye exam will last for about 45-90 minutes and the doctor will check your medical history, visual acuity, your prescription and more. The optometrist or ophthalmologist  may also suggest additional tests, such as a topography, which can help to diagnose corneal conditions, such as keratoconus.

Even knowing what to expect, you may still have questions and that is normal. There are multiple things you can do to prepare, including making a checklist  of questions for your provider and knowing what to bring to the appointment. Visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology for some additional tips so you can be ready for your next visit.

Signs That I Should Schedule an Eye Exam

While it’s important to go for an eye exam at the frequency that is right for you, there are instances in which you should go to the doctor before your next scheduled exam. Certain symptoms may suggest that you could be living with an eye condition or disease, or that you may require immediate medical attention:

  • Double vision
  • Eye blurring
  • Injury to your eye
  • Trouble adjusting to the dark
  • Dry eyes
  • Seeing spots

Even if you are not experiencing symptoms, don’t skip out on your next eye exam. It’s still important to receive regular care for your overall eye health, in case you have any conditions that may not present noticeable symptoms.

Moving Forward

Now that you understand when you or your loved ones should receive an eye exam and what to expect, you’re ready to take that next step and schedule any necessary appointments! If you’re living with keratoconus and preparing for your next eye exam, we created our own guide with questions to ask your physician. Eye exams may seem uncertain, but with the right information, you can be prepared!

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