By Chelsea Hasbrouck
While all five major senses – vision, smell, taste, touch and hearing – are important, your sense of vision is arguably the most important. Protecting your vision by having regular eye examinations is an essential element of maintaining good health. Eye examinations often disclose serious eye conditions in their early stages, when they are more easily corrected. However, eye examinations may also uncover serious diseases not related to vision, such as diabetes, hypertension, or abnormally high cholesterol levels. Cost should not be a factor in whether you receive eye exams. Various community organizations conduct eye examinations free or at low cost to those who cannot otherwise afford them.
Eye Exams for Children
The vast majority of material children absorb in school is presented visually. This is especially true as computers and smart classrooms become increasingly prominent in every level of education, beginning with preschool. Detecting vision problems while children are young can save years of frustration and faltering grades.
Under normal circumstances, the American Optometric Association, abbreviated as AOA, recommends that children receive their first eye exam at six months of age.
Children who have risk factors for vision problems, including low birth weight, developmental disabilities, strabismus (also called crossed eyes) or a family history of eye diseases should have their first examinations before they are six months old. More frequent eye exams are usually called for during childhood. Specifically, children who wear contact lenses or eyeglasses should have eye exams every year, the AOA advises.
Eye Exams for Adults
After reaching adulthood, healthy individuals should have comprehensive eye examinations every two years between the ages of 18 and 60, the AOA recommends. Adults with risk factors such as a family history of glaucoma should have more frequent examinations. Adults who wear contact lenses or eyeglasses, as well as seniors over age 60, should have an eye examination every year, according to the AOA.
Free and Low Cost Eye Exams
Eye examinations vary in cost according to where they are conducted and the type of medical professional conducts the examination. In general, examinations conducted in optical department of retail outlets are less expensive than exams conducted in doctors’ offices or a medical clinic. Eye exams conducted by ophthalmologists who are trained to perform all phases of eye care including surgery, are generally more expensive than those conducted by optometrists – doctors who are authorized to prescribe corrective lenses and vision aids, but who do not perform surgery. Exams conducted by opticians, professionals trained to fit and repair glasses and contact lenses are even less expensive than those conducted by physicians.
If cost is a barrier, adults and children who need eye exams have a variety of options. InfantSEE is a program conducted by the AOA to provide examinations to infants from six to twelve months of age, regardless of income. Older children and adults who need eye examination but who cannot afford them may be eligible for Medicaid or Medicare. Organizations such as Lions Club International, and EyeCare America, a program conducted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology also provide eye examinations to adults at no charge.
– Chelsea Hasbrouck is an optical technician that is studying optometry. She enjoys sharing her findings and insights on health blogs. Lenstore.co.uk is an online contact lens retailer. Visit the link for more information.