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How Often Should You Get an Eye Exam?

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A woman sitting behind a phoropter at an optometrist office, smiling

To maintain good health, you go for regular checkups at the doctor. The same is true for getting eye examinations. Of course, if you notice a decline in your vision or you’re having issues, you go see the eye doctor. But comprehensive eye exams are meant to be proactive, not reactive.

When it comes to many eye diseases or conditions, the earlier they’re caught, the better your chances of getting it fixed or preventing future damage. The problem is that many diseases begin and progress with little to no symptoms. So, the only way they are caught early is through regular eye exams.

How Often Should You Get an Eye Exam?

Fortunately, the frequency of eye exams is not guesswork. As a baseline, the Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO) has developed an evidence-based approach to their recommendation. It’s important to note that these are considered minimum schedules, and your eye doctor may recommend more frequent eye exams based on your individual situation.

CAO recommended schedule:

  • Birth to 24 months: First exam between 6 and 9 months
  • 2 to 5 years: Minimum of one exam between these ages
  • 6 to 19 years: Annual examinations
  • 20 to 39 years: An examination every 2 to 3 years
  • 40 to 64 years: An examination every 2 years
  • 65 and older: Annual examinations

Getting an Eye Exam Sooner

There are many situations where you should get an eye exam sooner, even if the eye doctor hasn’t recommended it. For example, suppose you’re a 30-year-old and just received a comprehensive eye exam. In that case, you typically won’t need another for 2 or 3 years.

However, if you experience any troublesome symptoms, it’s in the best interest of your eye health to see the optometrist sooner. They will be able to determine whether you need another full exam or not.

Some symptoms to be mindful of:

  • Severe or unusual eye discomfort
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Sudden halos around lights
  • Light sensitivity
  • Unusually red eyes
  • Itching or burning eyes

There are often reasonable explanations for these symptoms, such as allergies or drier than normal air. But you only have two eyes, so it’s best not to assume everything is fine.

Risk Factors for an Alternative Eye Exam Schedule

Several things may lead to your eye doctor providing you with a different recommended exam schedule. For example, if you already wear glasses or contact lenses, the doctor will likely recommend a much shorter time between exams.

Some other things that typically results in more frequent eye exams are:

  • Diabetes or risk of diabetes
  • Family history of eye disease
  • Underlying health conditions like high blood pressure or heart disease
A woman holding on to a pair of glasses in her right hand and a contact lens case in her left hand

Contact Lens Fitting Exam

If you don’t currently wear contacts and are interested in exploring the option, let the eye doctor know before your exam. They will do a few additional tests during a contact lens fitting exam to determine if you’re eligible for contact lenses and which ones will be the best for you.

If you’ve recently had a full examination, you can also usually book a contact lens fitting appointment by itself.

What Happens During an Eye Exam?

Although a comprehensive eye exam may sound intimidating, there’s nothing to worry about. Typically, there is minimal discomfort (if any) involved. The only thing you may need is a ride home. 

Often during a complete eye examination, the optometrist will dilate your eyes to perform certain tests. This dilation usually takes some time to subside, and you’ll be sensitive to light while your pupils are dilated. In addition, your vision may not be 100%, making driving unsafe. So, arranging a ride beforehand is your best bet.

Other than eye dilation, here are some things you can expect from a comprehensive eye exam:

  • Variety of questions covering your personal and family history
  • Visual acuity and refractive error tests
  • Glaucoma screening 
  • Eye pressure measurements
  • Colour vision test
  • Slit-lamp test

This isn’t a comprehensive list. Many tests are optional; your eye doctor will only perform them if they think it’s necessary. For example, the optometrist may do several types of eye imaging and scans. During the question period of your exam, you’ll be able to ask your doctor about the specific tests they want to perform.

Maintaining Good Eye Health

In addition to getting eye exams according to your doctor’s recommendations, there are several ways that you can maintain good eye health in between your exams.

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • Avoid smoking
  • Get a good amount of exercise
  • Protect your eyes from the sun 

Booking Your Next Comprehensive Eye Examination

If it’s been a while since you’ve had your last eye exam or you have any unusual symptoms, give our clinic a call today. The knowledgeable staff at Advance Eye Care Center are happy to answer your questions and book you in for a convenient time.

Written by Myles Bokinac

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