By Dr. Patricia Fulmer
Legacy Vision Center
Why Annual Comprehensive Eye Exams are So Important
We’ve all heard the adage “The eyes are the window to the soul” …but have you ever really stopped to think about what your eyes are saying about you? Sure, they can communicate to the world when you’re happy or sad, angry or tired, but did you know that one look by a trained eye care practitioner can tell your medical story, too?
This is why an annual comprehensive eye examination is so important, regardless of age or how well you see.
During an annual comprehensive eye examination, in addition to evaluating for visual findings such as near or far-sightedness or amblyopia (a weakened eye), your eyes are also checked for sight-threatening ocular health conditions like glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration and systemic problems which affect your overall health. In fact, the American Optometric Association has stated that doctors of optometry can detect the early warning signs and manifestations of over 270 systemic and chronic conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, and autoimmune problems.
One of the most common reasons eye care professionals encounter for people not getting an eye exam is that the patient “can see well”. Unfortunately, good vision does not always indicate a healthy eye or body. Potentially detrimental ocular and systemic conditions are often “silent” initially, meaning they do not present with obvious symptoms such as pain or vision loss to the patient until disease progression has occurred, and therefore remain undetected without an examination. Additionally, they are not uncommon in our population. A study released in 2022 reported that, as of 2019, 19.83 million Americans are living with age-related macular degeneration with 1 in 10 people over 50 years old having the early form1. The CDC stated in 2020 that glaucoma affects 3 million Americans and is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide, and that 34.2 million people in the U.S. are living with diabetes, approximately 7.3 million of whom are undiagnosed (in 2018). With early intervention through eye examinations, though, many of these conditions can be successfully detected and managed, and long-term effects may be prevented. Upon diagnosis, your Doctor of Optometry will recommend treatment options, establish co-management with other specialists as needed, and adjust your monitoring schedule to ensure your best possible outcomes.
While annual examinations are recommended for all patients, those with known risk factors for disease development and progression should be especially diligent. These factors include but are not limited to family history, UV exposure, smoking history, age, poor diet, race, and pre-existing conditions. For instance, African Americans are at higher risk for glaucoma development, while the prevalence of age-related macular degeneration is higher in Caucasians.
At Legacy Vision Center, we take pride in providing complete, medically focused care through thorough examinations and extensive diagnostic testing for patients of all ages and backgrounds. If you’d like to make sure your eye and systemic health are on track, give us a call today at 256-808-2345.
Prevalence of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). Preventblindness.org. https://preventblindness.org/amd-prevalence-vehss/. Accessed January 3, 2022.