Fergus Falls Optometric Center
"Family Eyecare from the Eyecare Family."
Dr. Mark D. Olmsted and Dr. Christine A. Olmsted
117 E. Lincoln Ave.
Fergus Falls, MN 56537
Appointments: 218-736-7555

When Should I Get an Eye Exam? - 13 Feb 2005

When Should I Get an Eye Exam?
13 Feb 2005

When Should I Get an Eye Exam?Patients often ask us how often they should return for routine eye exams. They also frequently inquire as to how early in life their children should be checked. These points and related ones will be addressed in this article.

Optometry has been preaching the virtues of routine, preventative, examinations for many years. Our friends in the American Dental Association have been successful in getting this message across to the public for many years. A regular preventative dental visit is scheduled on a six month interval for a cleaning and exam to be sure all is well. If it is not, any concern is taken care of promptly and early in the course of things. This, of course, is the root of what we try to convey…catching any eye diseases or anomalies early and promptly treating the condition.

It is unfortunate that many people think only of glasses and their own perception of how well they can see, when considering their need to return for eyecare. Many people only return when their glasses break. Doctor: “When was your last eye exam?” Patient: “When I got these glasses. I remember it well, Jimmy Carter was being inaugurated.” Doctor: “I remember that too. I was in Jr. High at the time…” Obviously, a lot can change in a few years. The prescription for a vision correction may change causing eyestrain if not addressed. This is what often brings patients back. But there are sneaky diseases like glaucoma, as just one example, which in most cases are not noticed by the affected person until it is too late. Just ask Kirby Puckett how his outstanding career with the Twins ended. He woke up one day and couldn’t see with his right eye. That was his first hint about any problem. Glaucoma usually doesn’t just pop up. It’s effects over time are gradual and damage the peripheral or side vision first. Glaucoma, among other diseases, is routinely tested for in every comprehensive eye exam. When detected early it is more readily managed.

Parents should have their children tested early in life at age 2 or 3. Of course, if something doesn’t seem right, such as an eye that turns inappropriately or a white pupil ( the black opening where light enters the eye), the child should be seen right away. Also, large vision errors, especially when one eye is worse than the other must be caught early, because the toddler’s vision is still developing and if a vision correction is needed it’s use will prevent the start of amblyopia, or lazy eye. We adults must remember that children have no frame of reference in regard to how well they should see.

School age children should have a full, professional eye exam annually. This should be done preferably just before school begins. Remember that during those years of incredible growth, a child’s eyes may change as fast as the rest of him/her. The vision screenings at school are an excellent and useful tool, but are only a screening. They are mostly set up to detect kids who have trouble seeing in the distance, the nearsighted. Farsighted children and others with nearpoint dysfunctions can be missed and these problems affect the youngster’s ability to read comfortably not only in books, but on the computer, which has become a very prominent part of the education of our nation’s kids. There are states, which have considered the excellent concept of making a mandatory professional eye exam a part of a child’s required medical checklist before entering school.

So, how often should one get an eye exam? Our pat answer is annually. Mostly to rule out disease and make appropriate interventions, but also to detect problems in children so that they may excel in school without the burden of a vision anomaly to slow them down.

Drs. Mark Olmsted