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Happy man jogging with friends

40s + 50s Eye Exams

Regular eye exams become more important as you reach your 40s and 50s. If you wear eyeglasses or contact lenses, keep up with the changes in your vision by updating your prescription.

It’s recommended that you see an ophthalmologist or optometrist for a baseline or comprehensive eye exam (also called eye disease screenings or eye health screenings) at age 40. Comprehensive eye examinations at 40 are akin to other vital health screening such as mammograms and colon screenings. Early signs of disease and changes in vision generally begin at this age and some conditions have no physical symptoms until they’re advanced.

Comprehensive eye exams provide a greater chance for early treatment and preservation of your vision. You should have eye exams at least every two years (or more frequently based on the recommendation of your eye doctor) once you’ve reached 40 years of age.

These exams are even more important and should be performed earlier in life if you have symptoms or risk factors for eye disease. You should not wait until 40 to get a baseline eye screening if you have any of the following:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of eye disease

If you notice a change in your vision—or your eye is injured in any way—contact your eye doctor as soon as possible. Do not wait until a scheduled exam.

What Can You Expect at Your Eye Exam?

Comprehensive eye exams are simple and comfortable. Each eye doctor has their own routine, but most eye exams follow a similar pattern and by now you should be familiar with how it works. Your eye doctor will review your personal and family medical history to see if you may be at risk for eye problems. Then, your doctor will conduct tests to check for the following:

  • Your medical history: Your doctor will ask about your family history, vision and general health
  • Your visual acuity: Your doctor will have you read an eye chart to determine how well you see at various distances. You’ll cover one eye while the other is being tested. This will determine whether or not you have 20/20 vision
  • Your prescription for corrective lenses: Your doctor will ask you to look at an eye chart through a device called a phoropter. The phoropter contains different lenses that may help you determine the best eyeglass or contact lens prescription for you
  • Your pupils: Your doctor may check how your pupils respond to light by shining a beam of light into your eye. Pupils usually respond by getting smaller. If yours widen or don’t respond, this may reveal an underlying problem
  • Your peripheral vision: Because it isn’t always noticeable, the doctor will test for loss of peripheral vision. This could be a sign of glaucoma.
  • Your eye movement: A test called ocular motility evaluates the movement of your eyes. Your doctor will look to see if your eyes are aligned and that your eye muscles are working properly
  • Eyelid health and function: The doctor will examine your eyelid, inside and out
  • The interior of the eye: After dilating your eyes (by both using a few eye drops and dimming the lights so the pupils will widen), your eye doctor will use an instrument called an ophthalmoscope to see through to the retina and optic nerve at the back of the eye. This is where clues to many eye diseases first show up
  • Measurement of eye pressure: Your eye doctor will measure the pressure, inside your eyes (called intraocular eye pressure, or IOP) using a tonometer. High pressure may be an early indicator of glaucoma and other diseases

Sometimes, your eye doctor may suggest further tests, which may include special imaging techniques including:

  • Optical coherence tomography (OCT)
  • Fundus photos
  • Fluorescein angiography (FA)
  • Topography, which is a scan of the surface of your cornea
  • Automated visual field

Tips for Finding an Eye Care Professional

It can often be difficult to find and choose healthcare providers. It’s important to find someone with whom you can have good communication. This is particularly true when it comes to your eye health. Try these tips for finding a local eye care professional:

  • Ask friends and family for recommendations
  • Consult your primary care doctor for a recommendation
  • Contact your state or county association (usually called academies or societies) of ophthalmologists or optometrists, which may have a list of eye care professionals with helpful details
  • Contact your insurance company or health plan for a list of eye care professionals covered under your plan

Financial Assistance for Eye Care

Eye care can be expensive. There are many state and national programs that provide financial assistance for people in need of eye care or corrective eyewear. If you need help covering the cost of eye care, look into the following organizations:

  • The National Eye Institutelink-out icon, a division of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), offers a list of helpful resources for free or low-cost options
  • The American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeCare Americalink-out icon provides help to find free or discounted eye care
  • Bausch + Lomb Patient Assistance Programlink-out icon provides eligible patients in financial need and without prescription insurance coverage no-cost access to prescription products

See Also: 40s + 50s Eye Conditions