There's an important distinction between eye exams and sight tests, which are also known as refractive or screening tests. While sight tests simply look at vision, a comprehensive eye exam assesses total eye health.
Children undergo sight tests at school. The pharmacy provides eye charts for people to assess their own vision and there are even websites where visitors can check for colour blindness and other vision issues. The problem is that all of these tests only evaluate how well a person sees.
“Relying on vision tests alone presents several risks to the average person,” says Alberta optometrist, Dr. Jared Long. “Several conditions, some of them quite serious, can only be detected during comprehensive eye exams.”
This entails a series of tests and procedures, ranging from having a patient read an eye chart to more complex examinations, such as using a high-powered microscope to examine the tiny structures inside the eyes. Essentially, says the doctor, it's a physical for your eyes.
Chantal and Jason Delarge say they know just how important a complete eye health exam really is. Their daughter Dallis was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a tumour of the retina, after visiting Dr. Long. Thankfully, they said, early detection of the condition meant Dallis was able to undergo immediate treatment.
“If there's one thing I could say to other parents, it's definitely get your children's eyes checked no matter what their age,” Chantal points out. “If I didn't take Dallis to the optometrist, we'd be in big trouble for sure.”
Retinoblastoma is just one condition that is identifiable through an eye exam. Diabetes, hypertension and other forms of cancer can also be detected by examining the inside of the eye. This emphasizes the need for people of all ages to visit an optometrist on a regular basis.
Dr. Long advises that infants undergo their first comprehensive eye exam between the ages of six and nine months; pre-school children should be examined at least once between the ages of two and five; school-aged children and seniors benefit by being checked annually; and adults aged 20 to 64 benefit with an exam at least every two years.
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