Importance Of Annual Eye Exams
Early detection of vision threats essential
Visions screenings and eye exams are important at various stages of life for different reasons. With infants and children, it is important to make sure vision and eyes are developing correctly. Beyond childhood, everyone is vulnerable to a variety of eye problems as we progress through adulthood. While many of these issues are ultimately benign, some represent a serious threat to vision and must be detected early in order to preserve sight.
Routine eye exams can even provide insight into conditions that arise elsewhere in the body. One such condition is called idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH), which usually strikes young women after a period of weight gain and involves an increase in spinal fluid pressure causing the optic nerves to swell at the back of both eyes. This disease is often detected during routine eye exams and is very treatable when diagnosed early. If left untreated, permanent vision loss can occur. All patients with frequent headaches should seek a dilated eye exam with a qualified eye care provider.
Vision is an indispensable development in babies and children. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus recommend the following for children:
• Newborns should have their eyes examined with a red reflex test by a doctor to screen for early onset eye disease. A comprehensive eye exam is needed if the baby is premature or at high risk for medical problems for other reasons, has signs of abnormalities, or has a family history of serious vision disorders in childhood.
• Infants should have a second screening during a well-child visit between six months and the first birthday.
• Between the ages of 3 and threeand-a-half, a vision and eye alignment screening should be done. Visual acuity should be tested as soon as the child is old enough to cooperate with an eye exam using an eye chart.
• When a child starts school or as soon as a vision issue starts to appear, they should be screened for visual acuity and alignment.
The AAO recommends that parents make a comprehensive eye exam appointment if any of the following occur:
• Their child fails a vision screening, or the screening is inconclusive or cannot be performed.
• Their pediatrician or school nurse recommends it.
• Their child is complaining about vision, abnormal visual behavior is observed like eye misalignment or involuntary eye movements, or their child is at risk for developing eye problems because of certain medical problems or a family history.
• Their child is diagnosed with a learning disability, developmental delay, neuropsychological condition or behavioral issue.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology also has vision exam recommendations for adults. A complete eye exam should be performed at age 40, which is the age when early signs of disease appear and changes in vision may occur. If someone has already been diagnosed with an eye disease or has other risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of eye disease, it is important to get a complete eye exam sooner. After your screening eye exam at age 40, your ophthalmologist can recommend how often you need eye exams going forward. For adults age 65 or older, the AAO recommends complete eye exams once a year or every two years.
In addition to providing comprehensive ophthalmic care, the faculty and residents of the LSU Health Shreveport Department of Ophthalmology provide subspecialty care in cornea and external disease, glaucoma, neuroophthalmology, retina and vitreous disorders, oculoplastics and pediatric ophthalmology. Our ophthalmology residency training program has graduated approximately 150 ophthalmologists since its inception in 1960. Many of these doctors have remained in Northwest Louisiana providing eye care to patients across the region. This makes our training program a critical engine for sustaining access to high-quality eye care in the Ark-La-Tex. Our department also provides 24-hour emergency eye services through the Level I Trauma Center at Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport Academic Medical Center.
John Brinkley, MD, is an assistant professor of clinical ophthalmology, clinical assistant professor of neurology, and clinical assistant professor of neurosurgery at LSU Health Shreveport. Dr. Brinkley specializes in neuro-ophthalmology. Contact the Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport General Eye Clinic at (318) 626-0717 or the Specialty Eye Clinic at (318) 626- 0338 to learn more or make an appointment.