Has it been a while since your last eye exam? Are you having trouble reading this sentence? We sure hope not — but those aren’t the only reasons you might need to visit your eye doctor!
It’s not always easy to know when to visit your eye doctor, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Not all eye conditions present obvious symptoms at first, but many become severe and irreversible if left untreated. Use the following checklist to make sure you’re not overdue for a visit—and schedule an appointment as soon as possible if you are!
When to See Your Optometrist (in General)
Let’s get one thing out of the way before we start: it’s a good idea to see your optometrist regularly—regardless of whether or not you think it’s necessary. In this case, “a regular basis” means at least once every two years for most adults.
Just to be safe, we recommend going for a routine eye exam with your optometrist as often as once each year. You may need to go even more often if you meet the following criteria:
- A family history of degenerative eye diseases such as glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration
- High blood pressure
- A job that requires demanding vision usage
- A job with conditions that may put the eyes at risk of damage (excessive glare, bright UV light, etc.)
- A personal history including eye surgery or eye injury
If any or all of the conditions listed above apply to you, talk to your optometrist as soon as possible. They’ll be able to tell you how often you should set up eye exams to monitor your condition.
4 Signs it’s Time to See Your Optometrist Now
Even if you’re in the habit of having regular eye exams, there are certain cases where it’s best not to wait. If you find yourself dealing with any of the following situations, contact your optometrist right away and set up an appointment.
Foreign Objects in One or Both Eyes
Dirt and debris can damage your eyes, along with various chemicals. If any of those substances enter your eyes, rinse them under clean and cool water for no less than 15 minutes.
You can also rinse with water to clear away small objects stuck in your eyes. However, avoid using tweezers or your fingers to remove the offending items at all costs, and do not rub your eyes. Such tactics can move the objects around and damage sensitive tissues.
If something enters your eye and you can’t rinse it out, contact your optometrist immediately. If they are unavailable, go to the nearest emergency room.
Signs of an Eye Infection
Some eye infections go away naturally over time, but others can cause vision loss if left unchecked. If you think you might have an eye infection, don’t tempt fate—schedule an eye exam with your optometrist and make sure you know what’s causing it.
Common signs of eye infection include:
- Swollen, red, or itchy eyelids
- Discoloured whites of the eyes
- Abnormal amounts of eye discharge (which can be light-brown, green, yellow, white, or clear)
Intense or Ongoing Eye Pain
If you experience mild or infrequent pain in one or both eyes, don’t panic. However, severe or long-lasting eye pain is a reason to see your optometrist—especially if it’s getting worse. Eye pain may signify an infection, but it can also be a sign of injury. In some cases, it may also accompany serious eye diseases such as glaucoma, which require early detection and management to prevent significant vision loss.
Too Many Flashes, Spots, & Floaters
Flashes, spots, and floaters occur naturally in most people’s eyes and are completely harmless in most cases. They appear when small bits of protein and other tissues drift across the vitreous (the transparent gel filling the inside of our eyes).
However, large clouds of floaters or sudden flashes are often bad news. The same goes for any clouds that appear to form over your vision. These symptoms may indicate a detached retina or other severe conditions that require immediate medical attention.
When in Doubt, See Your Optometrist
It’s always smart to set up routine eye exams with your optometrist, but be sure to keep looking for signs of trouble between visits. Some eye problems can’t wait, and you need to know when to act fast. Use the information above to help decide when to seek additional assistance so that you can see clearly for many years to come.