**By Thomas Saunders, OD**
August is National Eye Exam Month, and may be the perfect time to consider a comprehensive vision examination. In many ways, the eye serves as a window to the rest of the body’s health, and routine eye examinations are an important part of preventive care for people of all ages.
During a comprehensive eye examination, your doctor will obtain a thorough personal and family history, highlighting conditions which may affect your eye health. Your ability to see as well as the movement and coordination of your eyes will be tested. A thorough evaluation of your eye health will be performed. To ensure optimal visual clarity, glasses or contacts may be prescribed.Your doctor will discuss the results of the examination with you, make treatment recommendations and answer any questions you may have regarding your vision or eye health.
According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), as much as 80 percent of what a child learns occurs through vision. Both the AOA and the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) stress the importance of eye care for preschool and school-age children, as poor vision can lead to learning difficulties. Summer can provide a good opportunity for children to be examined before the start of another school year.
As we age, the incidence of eye health problems increases. The AAO reports that by age 65, “one in three Americans will have a vision-impairing eye disease.” Early detection and appropriate treatment are paramount in preserving vision throughout life. For this reason, the AAO recommends a baseline eye disease screening for all adults by age 40. Adults 60 and over should have an annual eye exam to monitor for any changes. Health problems such as diabetes and hypertension have the potential to negatively affect eye health, so patients with these problems should also be examined at least annually.
Optometrists serve as the gateway to eye care, with expertise in the detection and treatment of eye health problems, in addition to prescribing glasses and contact lenses. They work closely with ophthalmologists when advanced treatment and surgical intervention is needed. When researching ophthalmologists, look for certification by the American Board of Ophthalmology, indicating the successful completion of advanced training and intensive evaluation of clinical knowledge, skills and techniques.
So whether you’re a parent wondering if your child can see the board in school, a 40-year-old squinting to read small print or a 60-year-old worried about cataracts, why not make August the month to get your eye exam?
Frequently Asked Question: Should I See an Optometrist or Ophthalmologist?
For day-to-day vision care needs not requiring surgical treatment, an optometrist is a sound choice. In addition to prescribing and fitting glasses and contacts, most optometrists offer medical treatment for common eye problems, such as infections and dry eyes.
Many optometrists are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of chronic eye diseases such as glaucoma, as well as the detection and monitoring of cataracts, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy. When choosing an optometrist for a specific concern, ask about their areas of specialty.
If serious eye health problems are found by an optometrist, you may be referred to an ophthalmologist for further examination and specialized treatment. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors trained to treat complex conditions and perform surgery, including the removal of cataracts, trauma care, treatment of detached retinas or other eye abnormalities.
In many cases the optometrist and ophthalmologist manage eye problems as a team, working together to provide the full spectrum of medical and surgical care to patients.