Vision Changes Over Time
Your vision changes and your prescription will adjust. If you're still wearing glasses from a prescription 5 years ago, not only are you not seeing as clearly as you could, you're also making your eyes strain more than they should. Worse yet, if you're wearing contacts longer than you should, in order to make a supply last longer than it is intended, you risk eye infections that can damage your vision.
If you use prescription eyewear or contacts, you should have your eyes checked every other year until you're 60 and then every year from 60 on. These are the signs that you need an eye exam:
People At Risk
People with diabetes, hypertension, or other “at risk” conditions may need their eyes checked more frequently. Diseases like these can damage vision quickly.
If you have a history in your family of glaucoma or macular degeneration, you'll also need to keep in closer touch with your optometrist.
You're Squinting a Lot
When your vision is bad or has changed far enough from your prescription, you'll find yourself squinting more. You won't do this when it comes to large objects. Even if they're a bit blurry, you'll still be able to tell what they are. Instead, you'll find yourself doing this with details. Perhaps you'll squint to see what a sign says, or because branches of a tree are blurry. Someone might point out a detail that you have a difficult time seeing. You'll squint to try to make out better detail.
Headaches becoming more frequent can come from a lot of different sources. One of the most common is eye strain. This is more and more common with people who look at bright screens all day for their job. It makes no sense to delay an eye appointment here.
An optometrist can often help you solve the headaches and improve your vision health all at once. If the headaches are coming from another source, then the optometrist can quickly rule out certain common causes that can help you be diagnosed more quickly.
If you get an eye infection, at least contact your optometrist's office. Most eye infections clear up over time, but some can indicate a larger problem. Sometimes the infection may be something else. For instance, some people develop an allergic reaction to materials a certain type of contact is made from.
You Overwear Your Contacts
People do it. They shouldn't, but they do. Some even sleep with their contacts in. They imagine the risks are overstated. Unfortunately, they aren't.
Overwearing contacts can starve the eye of oxygen. This is called hypoxia, which can lead to a few conditions. If your eye's not getting enough oxygen, you risk developing microcysts or an ulcer on the cornea – this is about as fun as it sounds and can lead to blindness.
Always be honest with your optometrist about your wear habits. They can often see the signs of certain overwearing risks and give you easy ways to avoid them and improve your eye health. It's better to be doing something wrong and admit it than to just keep on doing it and risk your vision.
Floaters and Flashes of Light
This one can be weird and scary. It's pretty normal to see what are called floaters, or muscae volitantes. These are impressions in your vision that look like tiny bits or strings of dust. They may even seem to move when you look elsewhere. You usually don't notice them, but you'll see them from time to time. These are simply small objects – tiny pieces of tissue, blood cells, or proteins that are inside your eye. They cast shadows on the back of the eye. All this is perfectly normal – everyone has them.
If you suddenly start having many more of them – an abnormal amount – this can point to retinal detachment. That's exactly what it sounds like – your eye's retina becoming detached. This is dangerous and can permanently cause blindness if it's not treated immediately. If it's at the point where you're seeing flashes of light or you can't see as much in your peripheral vision as you normally do, you must call your optometrist immediately. This is an emergency.
Things to Remember
Many conditions that lead to blindness or that permanently impair vision can come on quickly. Regular eye exams help you be able to see the world more clearly and reduce your eye strain. They also ensure that more permanent risks to your vision are detected and treated earlier when there's the greatest chance to correct the issue.
Remember: an eye exam once every two years until you're 60 and then an eye exam once a year. If you have a condition or disease that impacts your vision or take prescription drugs, your optometrist may adjust this schedule. Keep your appointments. They're pretty quick and the most uncomfortable thing that may happen is a little puff of air in your eye. That's certainly a lot more comfortable than most doctor's check-ups and dentist's appointments.
If you are exhibiting the signs it is time for an eye exam, contact Asheville Vision Associates to schedule an appointment.