Why Have Regular Eye Exams?
When it comes to eye exams, it is crucial to remember that this is more than your average check-up. Indeed, these tests are about more than ensuring that you can see clearly in the short term: eye exams are an essential step in protecting your overall health, from head to toe. A routine eye test can detect signs of serious underlying health conditions which you may have previously been unaware of, including high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes and even brain tumours (many of which may require treatment or surgery).
The eyes can be regarded as effective windows to the inside of our bodies. In many cases, evidence of an underlying health condition arises in symptoms which frequently appear after the point where damage has already occurred within your body. Our eyes, however, can provide clear evidence of various conditions which globally affect the entire body’s vasculature, including the arteries and veins of differing sizes seen both on the surface and within the retina of the eye. It is this ability to visualise, image and photograph the eyes’ vasculature that can enable physicians to understand what is also potentially going on within the vasculature of the heart, brain and kidneys.
This means that examination of the visible vasculature within the eye becomes a vital part of the examinations frequently used by GP’s and hospital physicians as an indicator of a patient’s overall vascular health. Additional assessment of the optic nerve at the back of the eye similarly provides an indirect visualisation of the central nervous system and brain, as the optic nerve is actually a direct prolongation of the brain. The assessment of the optic nerve head is vital to look for signs that it is raised, swollen or shows signs of inflammation which will point your physician to investigate further for other brain pathology.
Raising Eye Exam Awareness
Unfortunately, the benefits of regular eye exams are widely misunderstood across Ireland and the United Kingdom. This was confirmed in 2015 when the General Ophthalmic Services published national statistics demonstrating that NHS sight tests fell by roughly 23,000 over that year.
Whilst those figures have returned to more healthy expectations (over 13 million NHS-funded eye tests were carried out in 2017/18), leading medical organisations such as the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) continue to highlight the UK’s lacking awareness around the importance of regular eye exams. Indeed, recently conducted research by RNIB found that over 13.8 million people in the UK aren’t having their eyes tested every two years – in spite of established NHS recommendations.
Why Should I Have Regular Eye Tests?
Regular eye exams detect issues with your overall health and vision at their earliest possible stages. This means that taking the correct precautions with your eyecare can allow you to become aware of any medical issues at the point when they are most treatable, enhancing your chances of making a full recovery. Similarly, regular eye tests can enable an optometrist or ophthalmologist to help you adapt to any vision changes, whilst also giving them the opportunity to recommend any correctional treatment or surgery as well as essential eye care tips.
The ability of regular eye testing to minimise any future probability of blindness is greatly underestimated. In any eye test, your optician will look towards a range of indicators for any future conditions which may develop. These may include examinations for refractive errors (for example, any prescription for corrective lenses or the presence of astigmatism), tests for common eye alignment issues, examinations for ‘lazy eye’ (also known as amblyopia), as well as check-ups for a range of conditions including glaucoma and diabetes.
Protecting Your Health From Head-to-Toe
If one has certain systemic conditions it is important to have eyes examined more regularly: one common reason to be seen more is when a patient is diabetic. People with diabetes can develop a variety of eye problems with the most serious related to serious vascular problems usually affecting the retina but potentially also affecting other aspects of the eye and the rest of the body. If severe and untreated, these can result in blindness along with other organ damage. Regular eye testing can identify various abnormalities related or unrelated to diabetes, including blood vessel leaks, macular swelling and also early cataracts.
These are some of the important reasons why Cathedral Eye Clinic recommend following the established NHS guidelines of receiving an eye test at least every two years. Whilst the guidelines do recommend tests every two years, we believe that more regular checks can ensure that your vision is protected and that medical conditions can be identified in their earliest possible stages.
Statistics published by the World Health Organisation demonstrate that 80 per cent of all cases of blindness could have been preventable with regular eye tests. By failing to consider the importance of regular eye tests, patients can miss chances to identify early indicators of disease, impacting upon the ability to maintain clear vision or to achieve full visual recovery.
When Will I Need an Eye Exam?
Whilst NHS recommendations suggest receiving an eye exam at least once every two years, a number of contributing elements may alter how frequently you may require one. These factors include any eyesight conditions which you already have, any surgical procedures you may have undergone, your risk of developing eyesight issues, your age and the state of your personal health. Whilst many factors contribute to how often you may need an eye test, established guidelines recommend the following:
- Children (aged 3 years and younger): Opticians will examine a child for the most common eyesight issues, including myopia, amblyopia and misaligned eyes. When your child is aged between 3 and 5 they can then undergo a more rigorous check-up.
- Schoolchildren and teenagers: In the case of school-age children and adolescents, it is recommended that an eye exam should be received regularly (at least every two years). If there are eyesight problems, however, more regular examinations should be considered.
- Adults (aged 18 and over): For adults, NHS guidelines recommend regular eye tests on two-year intervals. However, as a patient gets older, they are advised to receive more regular tests to identify age-degenerative conditions such as presbyopia.
- Senior Citizens (aged 60 and over): As patients progress into old age, they should be cognisant of age-related degenerative eye conditions, including cataracts and presbyopia.
You should also consider more regular eye examinations if:
- You wear corrective glasses or contact lenses.
- You have a family history of eye disease or vision loss.
- You have a chronic medical condition such as diabetes.
- If you are currently taking medication which impacts the full functioning ability of the eye.
Learn more about Advanced Laser Technology at Cathedral Eye Clinic.
Bring your world into focus. Cathedral Eye Clinic’s meticulous pre-assessment examination can assess your suitability for laser surgery whilst also identifying any underlying medical issues. To find out more about eye tests and the various treatments offered at our facilities, contact Cathedral Eye Clinic today.