Why and when should adults have routine eye exams?

Posted 24 January 2023 at 3:00 pm

By Dr. Robert W. Ford, Chief of Optometry, Oak Orchard Health

Most adult vision problems are a continuation of the vision problems you grew up with. But even if you never needed glasses, your eyes will change as you get older. Forty seems to be a magic number when most people begin to need reading glasses, but routine eye exams are recommended long before age forty to detect other vision and eye medical problems. Vision problems are probably caused by a combination of heredity and environment and are not usually preventable.

Can You prevent eye diseases? 

Not really, but you can reduce your chances of getting eye diseases by following the recommended medical guidelines for staying healthy. Try to eat a balanced diet, limit the amount of sugar and sweets you eat, and exercise frequently. Following these guidelines helps your entire body, including your eyes.

Do sunglasses help prevent cataracts?   

If you spend a lot of time outdoors for work or for fun, sunglasses help reduce your chances of getting certain types of cataracts. And that goes for kids as well as for adults. Remember to also wear eye protection for hazardous jobs and aggressive sports.

How do your eyes work? 

Vision is a dynamic process involving both the eyes and the brain. The eyes receive light and images from the environment, and the brain then stores, analyzes and interprets this data to give us vision. The eyes must be healthy so that light entering the eyes through the pupils, comes to focus on the back surface of the inside of the eyes, the retina, where the data is sent to the brain, resulting in vision. Eye doctors examine all the parts of the eye to make sure that the light has a clear path to the retina. If you are nearsighted or farsighted or have astigmatism, they put lenses in front of your eyes that bring the light to focus on the retina. They perform tests to see if your two eyes are working together and to see if your eye muscles are moving the eyes correctly.  If vision problems are not corrected, you may have blurred vision, eyestrain, and sometimes headaches. Uncorrected vision can also result in poor performance in the workplace depending on the job vision demands.

Will you need to have your pupils dilated during an eye exam?

Often this is needed. Why? Eye doctors look through your pupils to see into your eyes. They will often use dilating drops to make your pupils bigger so they can see more of the back of your eyes. It helps rule out any abnormalities such as diabetes, glaucoma, floaters, developing cataracts, and retina diseases. Pupils are dilated every 3 or 4 years when you are young and healthy, and more frequently as you get older.

Why do adults need reading glasses or bifocals in their forties?

When you are young, the lenses that sit behind your pupils focus the light accurately onto the retina when looking at close objects or books. As we age, the lenses in our eyes get hard, and can no longer focus close-up images onto the retina. Eye doctors prescribe glasses with bifocals, trifocals, or just reading glasses to solve that problem.

Why are my eyes so dry? 

Complaints of dry eyes are very common, and the diagnoses can be very complicated. Tears are constantly being produced to protect the surface of the eyes. For many reasons, the eyes get dry, and they may burn, itch, and get red. The lids may swell, and there may be deposits of mucus and debris in the corners of your eyes. Your vision can blur. The causes of dry eyes may include, a dry environment, inflammation, certain medications, lid oil gland dysfunction, allergies, a history of cataracts or Lasix surgery, hormone changes, and lid abnormalities. Your eye doctor may treat you with eye lubricants, hot compresses with lid massage, lid surgery, prescription medication, and more. The bottom line is, if you have dry eyes, see your eye doctor.

Glaucoma, the silent sight stealer

In the United States, 9% to 12% of all cases of blindness are caused by glaucoma. Vision loss is caused by damage to the optic nerve. This nerve acts like an electric cable with over a million wires. It is responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain. There is no cure for glaucoma, but there are many treatments available to control this disease. Eye doctors screen for glaucoma at almost every eye exam. This is another good reason to have periodic eye exams.

The highly trained staff at Oak Orchard Health provides vision care for children and adults including people who have special needs. Call for an appointment or visit our website for more information www.OakOrchardHealth.org