Why should I have an annual eye exam?

Why should I have an annual eye exam?

I am always amazed by the number of patients I see who haven't had an eye exam in many years. Americans are very good about seeing the dentist every year and even change the oil in their cars quite regularly. But for some reason, when it comes to the eyes, they simply don't see (no pun intended) the need for an annual eye exam.

This likely stems from the belief that if you are not having any obvious problem with your vision, everything is probably okay. But is this good logic?

Unfortunately, in some cases, this type of logic can get you in trouble. Many eye diseases are slow and insidious and don’t present symptoms in the early stages. In other words, you could very easily have a problem and not even know it.

For example, glaucoma typically destroys one's peripheral vision first, and by the time a patient becomes aware of any vision loss, it is often quite advanced. The bad news is that glaucoma causes irreversible damage to the eyes. However, catching the disease early and treating it appropriately greatly improves a patient's prognosis.

Retinal holes, tears and detachments can also go unnoticed. The retina has no sensory neural receptors and as a result, damage to this tissue doesn't present with any type of pain.

Both retinal tears and holes can progress to a full-blown retinal detachment – a true ocular emergency. Left untreated, retinal detachments can result in blindness.

Finally, while I think it is great that schools perform vision screenings, they do not replace the need for regular eye exams. Screenings are just that – screenings. They are only designed to detect a handful of ocular problems.

More subtle problems with the eyes, despite the good intentions of the volunteers, can be easily missed. To make matter worse, undiagnosed vision problems can lead to problems in school, and nobody wants their child to struggle unnecessarily. 

In summary, perhaps there is no sense more precious than vision. If you think about it, what job doesn't utilize vision? Aside from listening to music and sleeping, vision is quite important in our lives. See an eye doctor each year, and lower your risk of losing this valuable sense.  

About this Angie’s List Expert: Dr. Jeff Ward is an optometrist at Highlands Ranch Optical, providing optometry services in Denver. Since 2004, Highlands Ranch Optical has specialized in eye exams, specialty contact lens fittings, frame styling and adjustments, prescription eyewear and treatment of eye diseases and infections.

As of September 26, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

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