Quick, can you name the leading cause of blindness among older Americans?
If you said, Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), you are correct. Since the month of February is Age-related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month, it feels timely to emphasize early detection of AMD and all vision health issues by encouraging everyone to have a comprehensive eye exam. But first, let’s take a look at the difference between a vision screening, a refractive exam, and a comprehensive eye exam.
Most of us know that a vision screening can help identify a vision problem for children and adults, right? But it’s important to understand that a screening cannot diagnose exactly what is wrong with our eyes, instead we should visit an optometrist or an ophthalmologist for a comprehensive eye exam, and below are guidelines for how often we should have a comprehensive eye exam.
A refractive exam or refraction helps determine the sharpness or clarity of our near (reading) and distance vision. This includes testing our vision to determine if our vision can be improved or corrected with regular eyeglasses or contact lenses. A refraction does not identify if we have more serious issues such as AMD, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, etc. Have you seen the ads on TV that offer two pairs of eyeglasses AND an eye exam for less than $100? Well, the “eye exam” is a refraction only and will not identify any vision health issues that may exist. To truly know the health of our eyes, we need a comprehensive eye exam.
A comprehensive eye exam generally includes a health and medical history, a visual history, an eye health evaluation, a refraction, visual field testing, and your examination results. Prevent Blindness, an organization committed to preventing blindness and preserving sight recommends the following guidelines for eye exams: Ages 20-39: Every 3-5 years; Ages 40-64: Every 2-4 years; Age 65+: You should get an eye exam every 1-2 years.
I hope you’ll “celebrate” Macular Degeneration Awareness Month by scheduling an eye exam if you’re due for one!