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Sight-saving eye tests for seniors

Elderly woman getting annual eye exam

Many people don't realise how untreated, age-related eye changes can harm vision and, eventually, their entire quality of life.

Outcomes can be devastating when an older person waits too long for an eye test.

Here are some important reasons why regular eye tests are important, especially when you become an older adult.

Eye tests for older people

You should have these important eye and vision tests performed by your optometrist on a regular basis:

Eye exams are vitally important for older people.

  • Eye pressures

  • Visual field (side / peripheral vision)

  • Dilated retinal examination

  • Slit lamp (bio-microscope)

  • Refraction

Each test gives your optometrist essential information about the health of your eyes and how your vision is performing.

Eye pressure testing (tonometry) is just one of the ways your optometrist will monitor your eyes for glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness.

Glaucoma usually has no symptoms until it becomes very advanced, at which point it's too late to save your vision. If found early enough with the right tests, glaucoma, the eye disease can be treated effectively to preserve your vision.

Visual field testing is another way your optometrist will check for glaucoma. This test can also help detect more serious problems like brain tumours, aneurysms, strokes and other brain diseases, which can be more common in older people.

A dilated retinal examination is vitally important to your eye health. By looking through an enlarged pupil (plus photographing or imaging the retina with a special laser instrument), your optometrist can spot many health problems and diseases.

The pupil provides the only easily available window into the body and the eye is the only place you can see the different blood vessels without needing an incision. Here are some of the many benefits of an examination of the retina through a dilated pupil:

Eye exams sometimes uncover other problems, such as diabetes.

  • By looking for changes in the optic nerve, your optometrist can get further indication of whether the patient has glaucoma.

  • By examining the most sensitive part of the retina (the macula), your optometrist will look for signs of macular degeneration.

  • By examining your eye's lens, signs of cataracts can be detected.

  • Damage to the eye's arteries and veins (blood vessels) can give your optometrist clues about the presence of diabetes, hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure, cholesterol damage and other blood diseases.

During your eye test, your optometrist will perform a slit lamp examination of your eyes with a high-power bio-microscope to carefully inspect the structures of the anterior (front part) of your eyes to look for conditions such as dry eyes, corneal dystrophies, pingueculae and pterygia (lumps and bumps on the sclera and cornea), eyelid disease, cancerous changes and other abnormalities.

With an additional small (often hand-held) lens, the slit lamp also can give your optometrist a magnified, 3D view of the retina and other structures in the back of the eye.

A refraction is the procedure to determine your prescription for glasses. Changes to your glasses prescription can also indicate conditions including diabetes, cataracts, and thyroid problems. Optometrists know these conditions can trigger certain, specific changes in your eyesight. For instance, diabetes can cause wild swings into short sighted, and thyroid problems can cause double vision.

Regular eye tests are an extremely important part of your health care. If you haven't had an eye exam in the past two years, find an optometrist near you.

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