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Most eye care experts recommend that you have a comprehensive eye exam every one to three years, depending on your age, risk factors, and physical condition.
Some experts estimate that approximately 5 to 10 percent of preschoolers and 25 percent of school-aged children have vision problems. For these reasons, children should have their eyes examined more frequently than young adults.
The American Optometric Association (AOA) says children should have their eyes examined at 6 months of age, at age 3 and again at the start of school. Thereafter, children without vision problems or risk factors for eye or vision problems should have routine eye exams at least every two years throughout school.
Children with existing vision problems or risk factors should have their eyes examined more frequently. Common risk factors for vision problems include:
- Premature birth
- Developmental delays
- Turned or crossed eyes
- A family history of eye disease
- A history of eye injury
- Other physical illness or disease
The AOA recommends that children who wear eyeglasses or contact lenses should have their eyes examined at least every 12 months or according to their eye doctor’s instructions.
The AOA says adults who wear eyeglasses or contacts should have annual eye exams. Adults with no need for prescription eyewear and no risk factors for eye or vision problems should have an eye exam every two to three years up to the age of 40, and more frequently thereafter.
Eye doctors often recommend more frequent examinations for adults with diabetes, high blood pressure and other disorders, because many diseases can have an impact on vision and eye health.
If you are over age 40, it’s a good idea to have your eyes examined every one to two years to check for common age-related eye problems such as presbyopia, cataracts and macular degeneration.
Because the risk of eye disease continues to increase with advancing age, everyone over the age of 60 should have annual eye exams, according to the AOA.
Who should I see for my eye exam?
There are two kinds of eye doctors – optometrists and ophthalmologists. Who you should see depends on your needs and preferences.
Optometrists: (ODs) are eye doctors who can prescribe glasses and contacts and treat medical conditions of the eye with eye drops and other medicines. They are not licensed to perform eye surgery.
Optometrists undergo a four-year curriculum of professional training in optometry, typically after receiving a science-related undergraduate degree from a college or university.
Ophthalmologists: are medical doctors (MDs or DOs) who specialize in eye care. In addition to prescribing eyeglasses and contacts, ophthalmologists are licensed to treat medical conditions of the eye and perform eye surgery.
Ophthalmologists attend four years of medical school after college, followed by at least one year of internship and three years of training as a hospital resident in ophthalmology.
Both optometrists and ophthalmologists are required to take national and state licensure examinations before they are allowed to practice, and must participate in ongoing professional education to keep their professional license active.
How much does an eye exam cost?
Eye exams are available in many settings, including private doctors’ offices, discount optical stores and large medical clinics. Fees vary widely depending upon whether the exam is performed by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist and the type of services included in the exam.
Generally speaking, contact lens exams cost more than regular eye exams. Likewise, an additional or higher fee may be charged for specialized services such as laser vision correction evaluations.
Many insurance plans cover at least a portion of eye exam services and fees. Check to see what your benefits are and which eye doctors in your area participate in your plan before you make an appointment. Then be sure to give your doctor’s office your insurance information to verify coverage.
What information should I take with me to my eye exam?
Come prepared for your eye exam and bring the following items:
- All eyeglasses and contact lenses you routinely use, including reading glasses.
- A list of any medications you take (including dosages).
- A list of any nutritional supplements you take (including dosages).
- A list of questions to ask the doctor, especially if you are interested in contact lenses or vision correction surgery.
Also bring your medical or vision insurance card if you will be using it for a portion of your fees.
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