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An annual eye exam is an important way to monitor your optical and general health. Unfortunately, many people ignore this vital aspect of health care. Many serious vision problems have correctable early warning stages, and if caught early, conditions which lead to blindness can be stopped. Unfortunately, by the time symptoms begin to manifest, it may be too late. This is why most optometrists prefer to see their patients at least once every two years for an eye exam, and preferably once a year.
During an eye exam, the doctor will check your eyes for refractive error, such as near or far sightedness. In addition, the doctor will examine the area around the eye and the eye itself for any signs of ill health or disease. Numerous machines are used in this process, and at the end of the eye exam, your eyes will be dilated so that the optometrist can look all the way into the back of the eyes.
Having your eyes checked for refractive error is the reason most people make an appointment for an eye exam. For individuals who already wear corrective lenses, an eye exam can ensure that they are using the right prescription. For people who have begun to have difficulty seeing, the eye exam will establish whether or not lenses are needed, and what strength is necessary. Often, a patient will not be aware that his or her vision has begun to decline; children especially should be taken to an eye doctor on a regular basis. If a child begins to lose focus in school, have difficulty reading, or have issues with comprehension, he or she may need glasses.
One of the most important aspects of an eye exam is the overall health check. The doctor starts with the exterior of the eye, looking at the health of the eye lid, eyelashes, and area around the eye. Next, the doctor looks into the eye with a bright light to check for signs of macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, and other serious conditions. The pressure in the eye is measured to check for imbalances, and the doctor looks at the health of the optic nerve, retina, and cornea. In addition, conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes often manifest symptoms in the eyes first, and an optometrist can refer a patient to another specialist if something of concern is observed.
In addition to protecting your vision with frequent eye exams, you should also take good care of your eyes by protecting them from sunlight and eating a healthy diet. Prolonged exposure to bright sunlight and glare has been linked with vision problems in later life, and wearing sunglasses can help greatly with this. For individuals who wear prescription glasses, prescription sunglasses or clip-ons are available to protect the eyes. Eating a diet high in anti-oxidants, vitamins A, C, and E, and lots of fresh fruit will also help keep your eyes healthy and strong.