Do you feel as if you’re squinting more than you used to? Are you getting headaches that you can’t explain? Is it hard for you to read books or your phone screen? These are all good indications that it’s time that you make your way to the eye doctor.

Many people believe that going to the eye doctor is unnecessary unless you need glasses or have an eye disease. However, just as we schedule routine dental exams, going to the eye doctor needs to be a regular part of our lives as well.

You could potentially save yourself a lot of time, grief, and money by catching and preventing eye issues. This is why a routine eye exam is so important. 

With this in mind, read on to learn about the top seven advantages of an eye exam. We’ll also demystify the experience of an eye exam so that you’ll know what to expect on your first visit. 

1. Improved Vision

A comprehensive eye exam usually includes a vision screening test as well. It’s important to schedule an appointment at least every two years even if you don’t think you need new glasses or contact prescriptions.

This is because eyesight tends to degenerate slowly, so it’s hard for most people to notice. This degeneration often increases in pace as you turn 60.

Improving your vision will drastically improve the quality of your life when it comes to driving, socializing, reading, watching tv, and more. It can increase independence for the elderly.

Poor vision can also cause headaches due to frequent eye strain from trying to focus. You may even have monocular vision, which means you’re relying on only one of your eyes to see. 

2. Testing for Macular Degeneration

An eye exam will test for macular degeneration. This disease is the leading cause of vision loss in Americans. Unfortunately, it’s not curable and the cause is unknown, but risk factors are genetics and smoking. Caucasians are also more likely to have the disease. 

It’s important to be diagnosed as early as possible because you can implement some lifestyle changes in order to help slow its progression. This can include: 

• Protecting your eyes from UV light

• Changing your diet

• Reducing or quitting smoking

• Exercising

In the early stages of macular degeneration, you won’t experience any vision loss. As the disease progresses, you’ll experience wavy or blurred vision.

3. Testing for Glaucoma

Glaucoma is another common eye disease that your eye doctor will test for during your exam. It’s the leading cause of blindness for people over 60 years old. This disease causes fluid to build up in the front of your eye; the pressure over time will damage your optic nerve.

Glaucoma needs to be diagnosed as soon as possible because if it’s caught early, a treatment plan that helps decrease the pressure in the front of your eye will help you retain your vision. You’re more likely to be diagnosed with glaucoma if you: 

• Are aged 40 or older

• Have family with glaucoma

• Have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or sickle cell anemia

• Have vision problems

Scheduling regular exams with your eye doctor are important because glaucoma doesn’t have any early signs or symptoms. 

4. Testing for Cataracts

A cataract is when the lens of our eyes becomes cloudy. This causes vision changes such as: 

• Blurry vision

• Double vision

• Sensitivity to light

• Faded colors

• Trouble seeing at night

Like many eye diseases, you’re far more likely to develop cataracts as you reach the age of 40 and beyond. Medical issues such as diabetes as well as a family history of cataracts all make you more likely to develop the disease.

You can slow down the development of cataracts by making sure that you’re wearing sunglasses that protect you from UV rays. If you wear eyeglasses, you can also opt for lenses that have an anti-UV coating. 

Fortunately, if your eye doctor finds that you have cataracts, there is treatment available. Through a simple and common surgery, a surgeon will remove the lens of the affected eye and replace it with a synthetic one. You can go home the same day the surgery is done, and they’re very successful at improving people’s vision. 

5. Testing for Diabetic Retinopathy

If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you could be at risk for diabetic retinopathy. This is a complication of diabetes when the blood vessels of your retina are damaged. Here are some early symptoms that you’ll need to look out for if you’re at risk: 

• Floaters or spots in your vision

• Blurred vision

• Dark or empty areas in your vision

• Vision loss

• Inability to see colors as well

Even if you don’t experience these symptoms, once a year eye exams that include dilation are important. It’s possible to develop diabetic retinopathy without any early signs. Left untreated, this disease can eventually lead to full vision loss. 

You can reduce your risk or reduce the damage of your blood vessels by making sure you’re managing your diabetes through lifestyle changes. It’s also important that you monitor your blood sugar level throughout the day, quit smoking, and reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol. 

6. Brain Health

You can see how an annual eye exam will help you quickly detect eye diseases before they get worse. Findings from eye exams can even be the first clue to serious chronic illnesses such as diabetes. The sooner you receive treatment, the sooner you can protect your vision and reduce the risk of completely losing it as you get older. 

Another advantage of annual eye exams is that they can also help your brain. According to a study in 2019, researchers found that a large number of elderly adults diagnosed with dementia also had impaired visual function. Regular ophthalmological exams would help improve the quality of their life, independence, and the burden on their caregivers.

7. Cost

Lastly, making sure to schedule an eye exam at least every two years may actually save you money in the longterm. This is because if you discover a chronic illness early through your eye exam, you can begin preventative measures that may help offset the costs of more expensive treatment plans or hospital visits.

According to the American Diabetes Association, people with diagnosed diabetes spend an average of $9,601 on medical bills associated with diabetes. Medical bills become 2.3 times higher than what you would normally have to pay each year.   

How Much Do Routine Eye Exams Cost

Now that you know all the advantages of routine eye exams, the next natural question is whether you’re able to afford them if you don’t have insurance. You may be wondering whether your budget can handle a higher eye exam frequency, even if you agree that it’s time that you got one. 

If you have insurance, how much you’ll need to pay will depend on your policy. While some plans will pay for routine eye exams in full, others will require a co-pay. Paying out-of-pocket is typically around $100. Some offices will require you to pay more on your initial visit. On your next visits, they’ll reduce the cost to their established patient rate.

You also have the option of using MedicareWire to research Medicare Advantage plans in your area. Medicare Advantage plans can typically offer more benefits than original Medicare, including vision.  

Always call in advance and ask the office if you’re not sure! 

How to Schedule a Routine Eye Exam

Scheduling a routine eye exam is simple. The easiest way to find local, qualified ophthalmologists is to do a simple “routine eye exam near me” search online. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking on the phone, some offices enable you to schedule through email. You may even be able to fill out the initial paperwork and email the documents ahead of time. 

Remember that you’ll want to schedule your eye exam in advance to make sure that they have availability during the time you prefer. You’ll also need to know that vision screening is different than a comprehensive eye exam.

With vision screening, a doctor only measures how well you can see and prescribes corrective measures to improve your sight. A general eye exam can include vision screening as well as tests to ensure your eyes are healthy and disease-free.

These comprehensive eye exams can be conducted by both optometrists and ophthalmologists.  

What is a Routine Eye Exam Like? 

Some people have the same fear of going to the ophthalmologist as they do the dentist or the doctor. However, you can easily strike this fear down by simply knowing what to expect. Eye exams are typically efficient and straightforward experiences. Here is what you can expect during a routine eye exam: 

Before the Exam

If you’re going to a new eye doctor, you need to be prepared to bring any prescription eyewear that you use. You’ll also need to give them some information on your health history. For instance, they’ll want to know if you’re having any eye problems now or if you’ve ever had issues in the past.

Eye doctors will also want to know about any allergies you have as well as the medications you’re currently taking. They’ll also ask about your family’s history of eye problems or medical issues that have affected the whole body.

During the Exam

Your doctor will perform various tests to determine the health of your eyes as well as your vision. None of these tests are painful, but you may experience some discomfort if you’re not used to eye drops. Your eye doctor uses numbing drops in your eyes in order to fully dilate your eyes so they can examine inside. 

They’ll also conduct tests, such as:

• Eye Muscle Test – You follow a moving object with your eyes

• Visual Acuity Test – Identifying letters on a chart from a distance

• Glaucoma Test – A light puff of air onto your eye or an instrument will touch your numbed eye

• Retinal Examination – Beam of light shined into your eye as you look away

• Refraction Assessment – You decide which lens the doctor uses looks the clearest to you 

You can see that many of the tests simply require you to identify or follow shapes. These tests take seconds to do and will give your doctor all the information they need to determine if your eyes are healthy.

After the Exam

After your exam, your doctor will write an eyeglass and/or contacts prescription for you if you need one. If you haven’t worn contacts before, they’ll be able to show you how. They’ll also give you tips on how you can protect your eyes as well as determine your risk for eye disease. 

Schedule Your Routine Eye Exam for Healthy Eyes

Now that you know the importance of a routine eye exam as well as the average cost, we hope that you book the appointment as soon as you can. Besides the numbing eye drops in your eyes that can give you some slight discomfort, eye exams aren’t painful and are relatively quick and easy.

Scheduling regular eye exams are so important because many eye diseases don’t have any early signs or symptoms. They need to be discovered early in order to save your vision from further degradation or to improve the quality of life through surgery, such as cataracts.

Your eye doctor will also be able to give you lifestyle tips on how to improve and retain your vision as you get older. They can also recommend sunglasses or eyeglasses that give you the optimum level of UV protection so that you can still enjoy your outdoor excursions. 

Want to learn more ways about how to live a healthier life? Keep reading our website for more informative articles that keep you in the know!