GHS Cares: Adult Vision Screenings
As adults, vision is vital to supporting independent activities-- it allows us to read, get around, drive safely and it helps prevent us from falling. In early years, vision screening focuses on visual acuity, or the ability to see well. As we age, there are many more eye conditions to screen for, such as macular degeneration or cataracts. It is critical to visit an eye specialist (optometrist or ophthalmologist) to receive a regular screening eye exam to preserve vision and eye function over time.
According to the 2016 National Health Survey, about 30% of children need glasses or contacts due to common conditions such as nearsightedness (myopia). Most adults who grew up needing glasses or contacts still get eye regular examinations. However, most adults have no eye symptoms whatsoever, so they may not think about eye exams.
Fact #1 All adults without signs or symptoms of eye disease should get a comprehensive medical eye exam by age 40.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, eye exams are recommended for everyone by age 40-- even those with perfect vision and no difficulties. If you are younger than age 40 with no vision problems, consider an eye exam before age 40 if you have any family history of eye diseases, like glaucoma, or if you have frequent headaches or high blood pressure. Everyone with diabetes should get a yearly eye exam no matter what age they are. After age 40, all adults should see an eye doctor every 1-2 years minimum. For healthy adults ages 18-39, eye disease and vision loss are much less likely.
Fact #2 Most American adults experience a changing refractive disorder as they age called “presbyopia.”
Nearly everyone will experience “presbyopia” beginning in their late 30s to mid 40s. “Presbyopia” happens when the lens (the disc located behind the pupil) becomes less flexible. As it toughens, it makes it harder to see things close to the face, so one must hold things farther away from the face to see them clearly. This is one reason that eye exams are recommended more frequently starting at age 40.
Fact #3 A complete eye exam includes screening eye pressure, checking vision far and near, and viewing both the lens and blood vessels inside of the eye.
Eye doctors (optometrists and ophthalmologists) have special equipment called a “slit lamp,” which is the large device that holds the chin and eyes still. A “slit lamp” allows specialists to test each eye individually, and it helps magnify the inside of the eyes for a more thorough exam. When seeing patients at Granville Primary Care, Butner-Creedmoor, we use an “ophthalmoscope,” which is a handheld device that shines and magnifies one section of the inside of the eyes. This allows us to see some eye issues, however we cannot check pressure or see a complete view all at once. The difference is similar to shining a flashlight into a tree’s branches at night verses having a huge spotlight to illuminate the entire tree at once. While I do check parts of patients’ eyes myself, I still encourage patients to get a complete eye exam because it is much more thorough.
Fact #4 By age 65, one in three Americans will have a vision-impairing eye disease.
The earlier the eye conditions are discovered and treatment begins, the better chance of maintaining good vision. Early signs of eye disease, including cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration, begin around ages 35-40. However, they do not usually affect vision until much later on. This is why it is so important to begin getting eye exams by age 40. Your eye doctor will recommend an individualized plan for frequency of follow-up exams based on your family history and the results of your exam.
For those with vision insurance, screening eye exams are usually free. For those without insurance, comprehensive screening eye exams can range in cost from less than $49-$99 (at retail shops) to $125-$175 (at an eye doctor’s office). For a baseline eye exam, any of these options are fine. If there is an eye issue that needs further attention, such as a cataract (cloudy lens) or glaucoma (high eye pressure) which need further attention, a referral will be issued to evaluate.
Fact #5 You can help prevent eye issues.
You can help preserve vision by wearing sunglasses and getting regular screening eye exams by age 40. If you notice any difficulty with vision or have headaches, diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of eye problems, it may be wise to consider an exam before age 40, too. Maintaining clear vision is such an important aspect of living a high quality, healthy life and aging well.
Dr. Liz Baltaro and Dr. Amy Nayo are primary care physicians expanding community access to quality pediatric and family medicine at Granville Primary Care, Butner-Creedmoor, located at 1614 NC Highway 56, Butner. To schedule your primary care appointment, please call 919-575-6103 or schedule online at ghshospital.org. You can schedule a primary care appointment with a provider as far as 12 months in advance through online scheduling.