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Get Your Eyes Tested

Content last updated on:
December 03, 2014

The Basics

Have your eyes tested (examined) every 2 years. Older adults and people with diabetes need to get eye exams every year.

Regular eye exams help your doctor find eye problems early, when they may be easier to treat. The doctor will also do tests to make sure you are seeing as clearly as possible.

What happens during an eye exam?

  • The doctor will ask you questions about your health and vision.
  • You will read charts with letters and numbers so the doctor can check your vision.
  • The doctor will do tests to look for problems with your eyes, including glaucoma.
  • The doctor will put drops in your eyes to dilate (enlarge) your pupils. A dilated eye exam is the only way to find some types of eye disease.

Learn more about what happens during an eye exam.

What will the doctor look for during an exam?
As you get older, your eyes change. Some changes in your eyes are more serious than others. Eye diseases like glaucoma can lead to vision loss and blindness if they aren’t caught early.

Depending on your age, the doctor may look for eye problems that are common in older adults, including:

Learn about the different parts of your eye.

What's the difference between a vision screening and an eye exam?
A vision screening is a short checkup for your eyes. It usually takes place during a regular doctor visit. Vision screenings can only find certain eye problems.

An eye exam takes more time than a vision screening, and it’s the only way to find some types of eye disease.

These 2 kinds of doctors can perform eye exams:

  • Optometrist
  • Ophthalmologist

Am I at risk for eye disease?
You may be at risk for eye disease if you:

  • Are age 60 or older
  • Are African-American and over age 40
  • Have diabetes
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have a family member with diabetes or an eye disease

Am I at risk for a vision problem?
Your chance of developing a vision problem increases as you get older. And you may be at higher risk if one of your parents had a vision problem, like needing to wear glasses.

Common vision problems are:

  • Nearsightedness – when far away objects are blurry
  • Farsightedness – when far away objects are easier to see than near ones
  • Astigmatism – a condition that makes it hard to see fine details
  • Presbyopia (“prez-bee-OH-bee-uh”) – problems seeing things up close

Learn more about common vision problems. See an eye doctor right away if your vision or eyes suddenly change.

Take Action!

Take Action!

Protect your vision. Get regular eye exams so you can find problems early, when they may be easier to treat.

Schedule an eye exam.
Ask your doctor or health center for the name of an eye care professional. Or use these tips for finding an eye doctor.

When you go for your exam, be sure to:

  • Ask the doctor for a dilated eye exam.
  • Tell the doctor if anyone in your family has eye problems or diabetes.

For more help, go through this checklist for your eye doctor appointment.

What about cost?
Check with your insurance plan about costs and co-payments.

Medicare covers eye exams for:

If you don’t have insurance, look for free or low-cost eye care programs where you live.

Watch for problems.
See an eye doctor right away if you have any of these problems:

  • Sudden loss of vision
  • Flashes of light
  • Tiny spots that float across your eye
  • Eye pain
  • Redness or swelling

Check out the signs and symptoms of eye problems.

Get regular physical exams.
Get regular exams to help you stay healthy. Ask your doctor or nurse how you can prevent type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. These diseases can cause eye problems if they aren’t treated.

Lower your risk of falling.
Poor vision or the wrong glasses can increase your risk of falling. One in 3 older adults will fall each year. Falling can cause serious injuries and health problems, especially for people over age 64. Learn how to lower your risk of falling.

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