Eye Exams for Older Adults
The importance of eye exams
Older adults are at higher risk for eye disease and vision problems, so you'll want to take very seriously any unusual symptoms someone you're concerned about may be having with his vision. That's because early detection and treatment can greatly reduce the risk of partial or complete blindness. Routine eye exams are crucial, too, as some eye diseases arrive without any warning.
How often should an older adult's vision be screened?
For those 65 and older, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends complete eye exams every year or two. If a person hasn't seen an eye doctor recently, it's important to schedule an appointment. Even if he isn't having any symptoms or any trouble seeing, it's possible to have an eye disease. There are often no obvious early symptoms of glaucoma, for example, and the disease progresses slowly. In fact, experts estimate that almost half of those with glaucoma don't know they have it.
A person may need more frequent exams (perhaps even more often than once a year) if he has certain medical conditions, like diabetes or high blood pressure, which may put him at higher risk for some eye diseases. The eye doctor might want to see him more often, too, if he:
- Takes certain medications.
- Has had a serious eye injury in the past.
- Is African American (because of the increased risk of glaucoma).
- Has a personal or family history of eye disease.
Who should do the eye exam
If you need to find an eye care provider, you can start by asking a primary care physician for a referral. You can also visit the National Eye Institute's website, which provides resources for finding eye doctors. If the person in your care has age-related eye disease, you may want to work with an eye doctor who's a low-vision specialist.