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When should I see an ophthalmologist?

You should have your eyes examined by an ophthalmologist if you have any of these signs of or risk factors for eye disease:
  • Decreased vision, even if temporary
  • Distorted vision
  • New floaters (black “strings” or specks in the vision) and flashes of light
  • A curtain or veil blocking vision
  • Halos (colored circles around lights)
  • An eye injury or eye pain
  • Red eye
  • Bulging of one or both eyes
  • Misaligned eyes
  • Double vision
  • Loss of peripheral (side) vision
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • AIDS
  • Thyroid disease-related eye problems (Graves’ disease)
  • A family history of eye disease
  • Excess tearing
  • Eyelid abnormalities
Based on the examination, your ophthalmologist will let you know how often to return for follow-up exams.
Because of an increased risk for glaucoma, people of African descent should see an ophthalmologist even if they have no other signs of or risk factors for eye disease. Your ophthalmologist will let you know how often to return for follow-up exams.
You should also see an ophthalmologist if your primary care provider or optometrist refers you to one.
When you have no particular problems or risk factors, recommended intervals for eye exams are:
Newborn, preschool and preteen: Eye exams should be given by a pediatrician, family doctor or ophthalmologist at the following intervals:
  • Newborn to three months
  • Six months to one year
  • Three years old
  • Five years old
  • Later as needed
Adults 20 to 64 years of age Adults with no signs or risk factors for eye disease should have a complete eye disease screening by age 40 — the time when early signs of disease and changes in vision may start to happen. Based on the results of the initial screening, your ophthalmologist will let you know how often to return for follow-up exams.
Adults 65 years or older Every one to two years, or as recommended by your ophthalmologist.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.