For adults in their 40s and beyond, a regular eye exam is an important part of maintaining your overall health and making your vision last a lifetime. Without an eye exam, critical health issues can be overlooked until it’s too late. Some eye diseases have no symptoms until the condition is advanced and difficult, or even impossible, to treat. Adults 19 to 64 should have an eye exam at least every two years, and people with diabetes or age 65 or older should have an exam at least once a year. Other health conditions assessed by your Doctor of Optometry may also warrant more frequent eye examinations.
Your eyes are a window to your overall health, and an eye exam can also uncover underlying—and life-threatening—health issues, such as Type 2 diabetes, brain tumours, cancer of the eye, high blood pressure and certain vascular diseases.
Many people in B.C. have avoided serious sight impairment, blindness and other serious health issues by making an appointment with a Doctor of Optometry. You can meet some of them by watching this BCAO television ad, which features the stories of real B.C. residents whose eye exams uncovered serious health issues.
A complete vision and eye health exam starts with a series of questions to determine your general health, your family health history, any medication you may be taking and the types of visual tasks your lifestyle demands.
Using a variety of specialized equipment, your Doctor of Optometry will fully evaluate the health of your eyes, inside and out. They will perform a series of tests, assessing specific neurological functions such as colour vision, depth perception and field of vision. They test for common conditions such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia, and test muscle function, depth perception and how the eyes work together. And if needed, they will advise you on the corrective lens options most suitable to your needs.
A sight test is not an eye exam
A sight test by an optician is not the same as a comprehensive eye exam by a Doctor of Optometry. A sight test determines a lens refraction or power by relying on a combination of computerized tests using automated equipment. The comprehensiveness and accuracy of these automated sight tests is limited, and they are unable to address issues such as eye muscle co-ordination, eye fixation and alignment and corneal or lens irregularities. They do not examine the internal workings of the eye and will not identify underlying conditions and diseases that may be present.
On May 1st, 2010, B.C.’s Ministry of Health Services made major changes to regulations for Doctors of Optometry and opticians under the Health Professions Act. The new regulations allow opticians to dispense eyeglasses and contact lenses from an independent “sight-test” using automated computerized equipment. This removes the eye health examination by a Doctor of Optometry or ophthalmologist which could determine if there are underlying eye or overall health problems that the patient is not aware of. As well, internet companies selling eyeglasses and contact lenses no longer have to verify with the prescriber to ensure the prescription is correct.
Only an eye exam conducted by a Doctor of Optometry can give you a complete and accurate picture of your eye health. The new regulations will result in eye disease going undetected. Without a Doctor of Optometry or ophthalmologist examining your eyes, there is no way to know if your eyes are healthy, or if your vision change is a result of eye disease. People with eye disease don’t always have symptoms that are noticeable in early stages, when their condition is most treatable.