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lady with apple, healthy habbitsHow Often Should You Get Your Eyes Examined?

John Frederick, M.D.

While many New Year’s resolutions don’t get fulfilled, there is one you should commit to getting done. Get your eyes examined, especially if you can’t remember your last exam. Which begs the next question, how often do you need an eye exam?

Patients often ask how often eye exams are recommended. The answer depends on the patient’s age, eye disease risk factors and any ocular symptoms that exist.

Signs and symptoms requiring immediate eye examinations at any age include the following:

  • Loss, distortion or diminishing of vision
  • Pain in or around the eyes
  • Excessive tearing or discharge from the eyes
  • Swelling of the eyelids or protrusion of the eye
  • Double vision or flashing of lights
  • Halos around lights
  • Floaters
  • Sudden crossing or deviation of the eye
  • Changes in the color of the iris

Individuals without symptoms but at high risk of eye disease should have periodic eye examinations. Risk factors for eye diseases include diabetes, hypertension, and any family history of glaucoma, cataracts, strabismus (crossed eye), amblyopia, retinal detachments or other hereditary eye conditions.

Infants should receive an ocular screening exam by a pediatrician or family doctor while in the nursery. If the doctor notes any concerns, the infant is often referred to an eye doctor specializing in pediatric eye care. In addition, every child should receive a preschool screening ocular examination by age three. Amblyopia, also called lazy eye, is the most common ocular problem among preschool children, and can often be corrected if detected early.

Many adults believe they don’t need eye exams because they don’t wear glasses or contacts, but this has no bearing on contracting age-related eye diseases. The latest recommendation is for adults to get a baseline eye screening at age 40, when early signs of disease and changes in vision may occur.

Early detection and treatment is critical because damage from potentially blinding diseases, like glaucoma and diabetes that don’t present symptoms until some vision loss has occurred, can be minimized. An ophthalmologist will prescribe the necessary intervals for follow-up exams based on the initial screening results. In addition, patients at special risk of ocular diseases such as diabetes and hypertension and those with family histories of eye diseases should have annual eye exams.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends the following intervals when no signs of disease or family history are present:

  • Complete eye exam at age three. Before that, during regular pediatric wellness exams.
  • Complete eye exam at age 5
  • Age 5-9, every 1-2 years
  • Age 10-18, every 2-3 years
  • Age 20-29, at least once during this period. Those with risk factors for glaucoma (people of African descent or those who have a family history of glaucoma) should be seen every 3-5 years
  • Age 30-39, at least twice during this period. Those with risk factors for glaucoma (people of African descent or those who have a family history of glaucoma) should be seen every 2-4 years
  • Age 40-64, every 2-4 years
  • Age 65 or older, every 1-2 years

The above information is to serve as a guideline. Of course, there are always exceptions, and if you have specific questions, you should discuss those with your eye doctor.

BIO: Dr. Frederick, with Eye Surgeons Associates, is board-certified with a fellowship in Pediatric Ophthalmology. Dr. Frederick practices at our offices in Bettendorf, Iowa and Rock Island, Illinois. For more information, please see our website:

The material contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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