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WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A VISION SCREENING AND A COMPREHENSIVE EYE EXAMINATION?
A vision screening is a relatively short examination that can indicate the presence of a vision problem or a potential vision problem. A vision screening cannot diagnose exactly what is wrong with your eyes; instead, it can indicate that you should make an appointment with an ophthalmologist or optometrist for a more comprehensive dilated eye examination.
For glaucoma, a comprehensive dilated eye exam is the most effective detection method.
Comprehensive Eye Examination
A comprehensive eye examination includes more than just a vision test. It is a complete and thorough examination of eye function and health. Whether you have the need for corrective lenses or not, eye examinations should be part of your preventative healthcare program. Especially because many eye complications come without obvious signs or symptoms. Without a comprehensive examination, potentially dangerous conditions may go undiagnosed for years--turning a minor health problem into a major issue.
A comprehensive dilated eye examination generally lasts between 30 and 60 minutes, and can be compared to seeing your general physician for a checkup. You may not be exhibiting any concerning symptoms, but our doctors will be able to ask the right questions and perform the appropriate tests to rule out any problems. Similarly, our doctors will ask additional questions and perform general examinations to rule out any vision or eye-related health complications.
There are several parts to the exam:
Health, Medication and Vision History
- Your overall health and that of your immediate family
- The medications you are taking (both prescription and over-the-counter)
- Questions about high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes, smoking, and sun exposure.
- It is important that your blood sugar be consistently controlled for several days when you see your eye doctor for a routine exam. If your blood sugar is uneven, causing a change in your eye's focusing power, it will interfere with the measurements your doctor needs to make when prescribing new eyeglasses. Glasses that work well when your blood sugar is out of control will not work well when your blood sugar level is stable.
- This uses an eye chart to measure how well you can distinguish object details and shape at various distances. Perfect visual acuity is 20/20 or better. Legal blindness is defined as worse than or equal to 20/200 in both eyes.
- A slit-lamp is type of microscope is used to examine the front part of the eye, including the eyelids, conjunctiva, sclera, cornea, iris, anterior chamber, lens, and also parts of the retina and optic nerve.
- Drops are placed in your eyes to widen, or dilate, the pupil, enabling your doctor to thoroughly examine more of the retina and optic nerve for signs of damage.
Why Are Routine Eye Exams Recommended?
The health of your eyes says a lot about your overall health. In fact, our doctors can diagnose a number of general health problems through a comprehensive eye exam, including:
- Brain tumors
- Cardiac disease
- High blood pressure
- Multiple sclerosis
- Sickle Cell anemia
Although our eye doctors may not treat the above disorders, identifying symptoms during an eye exam can lead to earlier detection and successful treatment. When your comprehensive eye exam is complete, our doctors will refer you to a specialist, provide medical resources or fit you for corrective lenses as appropriate.
How Often Should My Eyes Be Examined?
The answer varies depending on your age, family history, medical history and various other factors.
An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor (M.D) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) who is specially trained to provide comprehensive eye care from prescribing glasses and contact lenses to performing eye surgery. An optometrist (O.D.) diagnoses and treats vision problems, eye diseases, injuries or abnormalities, and can also prescribe glasses and contact lenses as well as medications to treat eye disorders. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends that individuals with no known vision problems or risk factors follow this eye exam schedule:
- Adults 20 to 39
Adults should have a complete exam by an ophthalmologist at least once between the ages of 20 and 29 and twice between the ages of 30 and 39.
- Age 40 to 64
A comprehensive eye exam with an ophthalmologist should be scheduled every two to four years.
- Age 65 and Older
Seniors need to have their eyes examined every one to two years. During this period, eye conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration increase with frequency, and early diagnosis can be crucial.
Exceptions to the AAO Guidelines
There are individuals who may be at greater risk for eye problems and who need to see an ophthalmologist more often than recommended. Risk factors include:
- a family history of eye problems
- being an African American over the age of 40 (increased risk for glaucoma)
- diabetes (requires an annual exam regardless of age)
- history of eye injury that required medical or surgical care
There are also symptoms that could indicate a problem with the eyes. These include:
- visual changes or pain
- flashes of light
- seeing spots
- ghosting of images
- dark spots in vision
- lines and straight edges appear distorted or wavy
- dry eyes with burning and itching
If you experience any of these symptoms, or if it is time for an appointment, please call us at (321) 722-4443 to schedule today.