It is easy to take your eyesight for granted -- until something goes wrong. Most people are very visually oriented, and sight is the sense they rely on most. Think of how much you would miss out on without your sight - seeing your children and grandchildren, reading a book, watching a movie, doing your job, playing a sport, driving - losing your eyesight would be devastating. Yet, are you up to date on your eye exams? Eye exams are an important part of health maintenance for everyone.
Regular eye exams are one of the best ways to protect your vision, even if you do not wear eyeglasses or contact lenses. For adults, having eye exams helps detect early signs of eye diseases. Several eye diseases can cause permanent damage before symptoms appear. For people who have prescription eyewear, exams are critical for ensuring that their prescription is up-to-date and the strength is adjusted as needed. Regular eye exams are an important part of children's development. Sometimes children who are not performing well in school have an underlying vision problem. Children do not usually complain about poor vision, as they are not aware of what "normal" sight is.
There are three kinds of eye specialists:
- Ophthalmologists have a medical degree (M.D.) and many provide comprehensive eye care services including complete eye exams, diagnosis and treatment of complex eye diseases, prescribing corrective lenses, and performing eye surgery.
- Optometrists have a doctor of optometry (O.D.) degree and provide many of the same services as ophthalmologists, with the exception of treatment of complex eye diseases and performing eye surgery.
- Opticians fit and sell eyeglasses and some fit and sell contact lenses.
When you visit an ophthalmologist or optometrist for an eye exam, he or she will perform a series of tests to check for refractive error, which can be corrected with eyeglasses, contact lenses or refractive surgery. The provider will also look at the outside and inside of your eye with special equipment to see whether you have signs of eye or other diseases, such as cataracts, macular degeneration, corneal ulcers, diabetes and hypertension. He or she will also perform a glaucoma test. Glaucoma is a progressive disease that can cause permanent blindness; early detection and treatment are critical for preserving your eyesight. Because glaucoma is usually asymptomatic in its early stages, this is a critical test.
If you wear glasses or contact lenses, you should have your eyes checked every year. If you do not wear glasses or contacts, and have no symptoms of eye trouble, check with your vision and health plan to find out the scheduled frequency of coverage and how to locate a network provider. (Many union employees have vision benefits through their union. Managers with the GIC Dental/Vision plan have eye exam benefits through Davis Vision. Some health plans have limited vision benefits.)
This information provided by the Group Insurance Commission.