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Why should I have an eye exam?

It's important to take care of your eyes. Poor vision makes it harder to read, drive, and cook. The good news: Many eye problems and diseases can be treated if caught early.

To make sure you keep seeing clearly, get a comprehensive dilated eye exam. An eye care professional will examine your eyes for signs of vision problems or eye diseases. It's the best way to find out if you need glasses or contacts or are in the early stages of a serious but treatable eye disease. Many eye diseases that lead to vision loss do not have symptoms in their earliest stages, when it is best to treat and manage. You should have a dilated eye exam regularly to check for common eye problems.

When you're looking for a tip-off to how your eyes are doing, here's one big clue: Check your night vision. Count how long it takes your eyes to recover from bright lights you see at night, especially when driving. Longer than usual? Say, seven seconds, as opposed to three? Might be time for a visit with your eye specialist. This is a good time to mention any vision problems or family health history of eye problems. A visual acuity test will help your optometrist determine if you need eyeglasses or contact lenses for vision correction. A dilated-eye exam should also be done to check your eyes for any damage or signs of disease, such as glaucoma, cataracts, or age-related macular degeneration.

If you don't have any risk factors for eye disease and you're under 60, you can probably get by with seeing the eye doc every two years (annually if you're over 60). But go sooner if your eyes are giving you problems. In addition to the night vision test, Michael Roizen, MD, and Mehmet Oz, MD—authors of the newly expanded YOU: The Owner's Manual—suggest a couple of other quick do-it-yourself eye checks:

  • Fatigue test: If your eyes tire out faster during normal activity—like reading or working on the computer—it could be a sign of weakening eyesight.
  • Endurance test: If your eyes get tired earlier in your daily routine than usual—maybe you can't read in bed anymore, for example—schedule a checkup.

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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.