If you wear glasses or contacts, then you’re probably accustomed to having regular eye exams; exams are a necessary component of that process. Otherwise, though, eye exams aren’t a priority for most people. Many people are surprised to learn that routine eye exams don’t just check your vision, exams also look for diseases and disorders that affect your eyes. We’ll take a closer look at when to have a exam, and what you should expect during the appointment.

When to have an exam

Factors such as age, overall health, and the presence of other illnesses will largely determine how frequently you should have your eyes checked.

Children under the age of 5 usually have their eyes checked by a pediatrician for things such as lazy-eye or crossed eyes. Once children begin school, they’re often given quick vision screenings through the school, but those shouldn’t take the place of a thorough exam by an ophthalmologist. Children should be evaluated before first grade to ensure nothing interferes with their learning.

Young adults between the ages of 20 and 35, generally, should be checked every two to five years. People aged 40 to 65 are recommended to have an exam every two to four years; people over the age of 65 should have an exam every year or two.

Those with a history of diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol benefit from more frequent exams. Many problems remain silent for a long time allowing people to experience no symptoms but can be detected during a comprehensive eye exam. It’s not uncommon for people to discover serious health concerns through this procedure.

What you should expect during the exam

Most people are familiar with the visual acuity portion of the eye exam that measures how well you can read a standardized chart. This part determines what strength of corrective lenses you will need. The rest of the exam looks at how your eyes are shaped and function to help root out any underlying problems.

Serious conditions such as diabetes or a brain tumor can be discovered during an eye exam. By looking at the back of your eye the doctor can detect early signs of diabetes. By examining how the eye moves, a doctor can determine if blurry vision is caused by a tumor pressing against the optic nerve. Glaucoma is easily detected by administering a quick puff of air into the eye that measures pressure within your eye.

Make sure to contact your local optician or ophthalmologist to schedule your routine eye exam as part of your annual physical.  Early detection of vision changes and diseases will give you the best options for a lifetime of sight.

The doctor will check your pupils to ensure they properly react to light. Pupils that fail to dilate or constrict, or are of uneven sizes usually indicate a problem with the brain.