4 Reasons to Stop Putting Off Your Eye Exam

Eye Health, Featured Article, VSP
on February 18, 2015
stop putting off your eye exam

One item on your to do list that you don’t want to put off? Your annual eye exam. Neglecting your eye health can have drastic, far-reaching consequences, from impairing work and school performance to even permanently damaging your sight.

This is a lesson that Amy F., mother of two, learned the hard way. Back in 2011, Amy’s youngest daughter—whom she lovingly refers to as “The Little One,” or TLO—was struggling in school. TLO could not focus and seemed disinterested in reading or drawing. At first, Amy chalked it up to her daughter’s restless, energetic personality. But after she learned that one in four children has an undetected vision problem that can affect learning, Amy took TLO to see an eye doctor. The eye exam revealed that TLO was farsighted.

“It started making sense why she wasn’t interested in the words in books or doing her writing assignments—she couldn’t see them!” Amy says.

As soon as TLO started wearing glasses, her academic performance improved drastically and her learning problems all but disappeared. In fact, she advanced from first to third grade. Looking back, Amy is grateful that she scheduled an exam for her daughter when she did.

“Without our decision to go in for TLO’s first eye exam, I cringe to think how she might be struggling in school not being able to see close-up,” she says.

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Amy’s story underscores an important lesson: Regardless of your age or overall health, it is crucial to see an eye doctor every year.

According to Dr. Stephanie Kirschbaum, O.D., a private-practice optometrist in Grass Valley, Calif., and a VSP® Vision Care provider, regardless of whether you’ve had laser vision surgery or have naturally good vision, an eye exam is still imperative.

“An eye exam checks more than just your eyesight,” says Dr. Kirschbaum. “It is a great way to gauge what is going on with your overall health, and it can help detect diseases in their early stages.”

Below are four compelling reasons why you shouldn’t put off your eye exam.

1. An eye exam can detect eye diseases.

Aside from the obvious benefit—correcting poor vision— an eye exam can detect numerous vision-related issues, such as dry eyes, macular degeneration, color vision deficiency, glaucoma, cataracts, corneal dystrophies/disease, eye-teaming difficulties, amblyopia, astigmatism, eyelid infections, peripheral retinal traction, and holes and tears.

As you age, it’s especially important to stay on top of eye exams, Kirschbaum says, because this is when eye problems more commonly develop. “About half the population will develop cataracts by age 65 and macular degeneration is a big risk for Americans in their mid-sixties and older – affecting two million Americans. It’s also the leading cause of vision loss and blindness,” she says.

 2. An eye exam can detect major medical conditions.

It’s often said that eyes are “windows” to a person’s health. Simply by peering into your eyes, your eye doctor can detect a broad array of health conditions—from hypertension to diabetes to Crohn’s disease—that you might not even be aware that you have.

“Your eyes are the only place in your body that provide a clear, non-invasive view of your blood vessels, arteries, and a cranial nerve which can tell your doctor a lot about your overall health,” Kirschbaum says.

Some of the most common non-vision related diseases that can be detected during a routine eye exam include acute and chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, artery disease, diabetes, hyperthyroid (Grave’s), Crohn’s and other auto-immune disorders. In some cases, certain connective tissue disorders such as Ehler’s –Danlos syndrome (EDS) can also be found during an eye exam.

One of the well-known effects of diabetes is eye and vision damage caused by diabetic retinopathy. Yet, roughly 90 percent of diabetes-related blindness can be avoided by getting an annual eye exam.

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3. An eye exam can save your eyes.

Eye diseases and some visual disorders are not as successfully treated when detected and treated later, Dr. Kirschbaum says. That’s why it’s key to go in for regular eye exams to identify the problem sooner rather than later.

“Many eye diseases have no symptoms yet can cause more damage when left undetected,” she says. “The most common include glaucoma, macular degeneration, retinal detachment, vascular and corneal disease. “

If these problems go unchecked, they could result in compromised vision or even blindness.

Furthermore, correctable vision problems in children, such as lazy eyes, can lead to permanent vision issues if not addressed in a timely manner.

4. It can impact school or work performance.

As Amy’s story illustrates, less-than-stellar vision can impair academic performance. Many studies suggest that 80 percent of what we learn is visual, making eye exams particularly critical for school-age children. Today, more than 12.1 million school-age children – or one in four – have some form of vision problem.

More than 60% of children with learning problems have undiagnosed vision problems. Right now, when you purchase an individual vision plan from VSP Direct for as low as $17/month, a child in need receives a free eye exam and glasses. Find out more at VSPDirect.com/EyeGiveBack

Additionally, work-related activities for adults can be impacted by age-related vision problems. Presbyopia, the normal aging change in the eye’s ability to focus, typically begins in the early to mid-40s and continues to progress over time. “Many adults around this age start to experience difficulty seeing at close distances – especially for reading and computer tasks,” Kirschbaum says

Bottom Line

The moral of the story? Stop putting off that yearly eye exam. Adults should have an eye exam every year, Dr. Kirschbaum notes, while parents are advised to take their children to the eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam starting as young as six months old, then again at three years old, before kindergarten and every subsequent year.

“Regardless of the current state of your eye and overall health, regular eye exams are important for seeing clearly, learning more easily and preserving your vision for a life-time,” Kirschbaum says.

Imagine for a moment what your world would be like without sight. Just like any other part of our body, our eyes require regular upkeep and care to keep them healthy well into our golden years.

VSP Direct™ is an individual vision insurance product provided through VSP® Vision Care, offering affordable and high-quality individual vision benefits directly to consumers. Individual vision coverage includes an annual eye exam with a copayment, allowance for glasses or contacts, and access to the largest doctor network in the industry with 30,000 doctors—all backed by a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. VSP Direct offers the lowest out-of-pocket costs in individual vision care and a typical annual savings over $200 a year. 

Insurance policies have exclusions and limitations.  For costs and complete details of the coverage contact VSP at 800.785.0699.