Making Eye Health a Priority in 2020

eye healthOf the five senses, eyesight may be the most important, as impaired vision or blindness can have the most dramatic negative impact on the quality of life. Sadly, less than half of all Americans get a routine eye exam each year. And, according to a recent survey commissioned by the AAO (American Academy of Ophthalmology), many Americans wait until it’s too late to seek care for eye problems that lead to vision loss. This is because they lack a basic understanding of all the potential eye diseases that could lead to blindness if not addressed.

In an effort to raise eye health awareness and encourage more people to get their eyes examined, both the AAO and the American Optometric Association (AOA) are heavily promoting routine eye health exams this year. The AOA declared 2020 the Year of the Eye Exam, and their campaign efforts will intensify during AAO Healthy Vision Month.

Originally scheduled to be celebrated in May, as it has been in years past, AAO Healthy Vision Month has been shifted to July 2020, due to COVID-19. And, this summer is the perfect time for everyone—infants, teens, and adults—to get an eye exam to ensure their eye health.

Why Routine Eye Exams Are So Crucial

Just because someone can read this article or see clearly to drive does not mean their eyes are perfectly healthy. Many eye health problems have no symptoms before vision loss occurs. In fact, the three leading causes of vision loss in the United States are among them: glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and diabetic eye disease.

According to the AOA, in 2018 alone, doctors of optometry found symptoms of diabetes in over 301,000 patients who had not previously been diagnosed. Regular eye exams can also detect other problems before a patient is experiencing symptoms, too—like pituitary tumors.

In many cases of eye disease—and other systemic illnesses that can affect vision—waiting until there are symptoms to have an eye exam can be waiting a bit too late. Early detection is key to preventing and treating most eye diseases, as well as alerting patients to other health issues they may be unaware of.

What Can Patients Expect During a Routine Eye Exam?

Routine eye exams include several tests. The most well-known is the visual acuity test, involving reading letter charts while standing 20 feet away. Normal visual acuity is 20/20, meaning that while standing 20 feet from the chart, the patient can see clearly what everyone else with normal vision sees at that distance. Instead, if the test result is 20/60, for example, that means the patient must be 20 feet away to see something clearly that others can see from 60 feet away.

Visual acuity alone does not give a complete picture of eye health. Someone with 20/20 vision can still have an eye problem. For this reason, routine eye exams also will typically include a review of the patient’s medical history, a test of eye pressure to detect signs of glaucoma, an evaluation of eye movements and peripheral vision, an exam of the internal structure of the eye, and more.

About Pupil Dilation

To examine the eye’s internal structure, eye doctors dilate the pupils with drops and then look at the eye through specialized scopes to see the retina. They also perform refraction tests to determine what power of corrective lenses a patient might need to improve their vision.

Depending on the results of these tests or the patient’s medical history, some routine eye exams may include additional testing. All of the tests in a routine eye exam are painless, and the entire exam takes only about an hour to complete.

So Why Doesn’t Everyone Get a Routine Eye Exam?

Not having vision insurance is one of the top reasons people give for not getting an eye exam. An estimated 44 million Americans do not have health insurance, and even more do not have vision coverage.

The average cost of a routine eye exam may be several hundred dollars out-of-pocket. Unfortunately, not being able to afford that amount is one of the other top reasons people skip eye exams.

Lastly, some adults just assume their vision is fine and wait until they experience symptoms or vision loss to schedule an exam.

Who Should Get an Exam and How Often?

While the AOA and AAO are hoping that everyone will get an eye exam in 2020, certain age groups need to see an optometrist or ophthalmologist more than others.

Eye exams are especially crucial for young children, starting with their first at six months of age. Parents may be surprised to learn that children can experience vision problems without realizing it. This is in part because young children may not be aware that they don’t see things clearly, and because they can so easily adapt to the vision loss.

However, vision problems can significantly impact a child’s ability to learn and succeed in school. If detected early, many common pediatric eye diseases and conditions can be corrected, and vision can be saved.

Adults ages 18-64 should get an eye exam at least every two years and annually after that. As we touched on above, eye exams can also help detect other health problems that might not have been previously diagnosed. In addition to diabetes and pituitary tumors, for example, eye exams can also detect high blood pressure, high cholesterol, certain autoimmune diseases, and even some cancers.

Ready to Make 2020 the Year of the Eye Exam in Your Life?

The most important thing anyone can do for their vision health in 2020 is get an eye exam, and here at Campus Eye Center, we are proud to be the Lancaster area’s best resource for helping patients of all ages live better by seeing better.

Get in touch today to set up your next routine eye exam at Campus Eye Center!