When Should (And Shouldn't) You Have An Annual Eye Exam?

If you've recently gotten your first job that includes vision insurance among its fringe benefits, you may be taking advantage of a free or discounted eye exam each year. However, for those who don't have vision insurance and don't wear contacts or glasses, paying out of pocket for an exam year after year could seem wasteful. How often should you have an eye exam at a clinic like Spectacle Shoppe, Inc.? Read on to learn more about some personal and medical situations in which more frequent than usual eye exams may be warranted, as well as some cases in which you may want to delay your next eye exam or adopt a less regular checkup schedule.

How often should you normally have an eye exam performed?

For those with normal vision and no problems with the physical structure of the eye (like astigmatism, blocked tear ducts, or chronic sinus issues), eye exams should only need to be performed every other year -- although your vision insurance may cover yearly exams, these shouldn't be necessary unless you're dealing with a specific eye issue (like excess "floaters" or flashes of light) or have been noticing your vision isn't quite as sharp lately.

When should you have more frequent eye exams?

While those with perfect vision shouldn't need more than every-other-year eye exams, you may want to transition to annual eye exams once you hit your sixth decade even if you haven't noticed a decline in vision. Macular degeneration and other age-related degenerative eye disorders can strike quickly, and failing to diagnose and treat these disorders in time could lead you with permanent scars or even rob you of your vision entirely.

Those who wear glasses or corrective contact lenses will usually need a valid prescription for this vision correction written within the last calendar year in order to purchase new glasses or contacts. Even if you already have a stockpile of contacts or several sets of backup glasses, it can be important to have annual vision exams to ensure your prescription remains accurate and your vision is as clear as possible. These exams can also help identify any potentially degenerating eye conditions that could be further impeding your vision and allow you to take corrective measures to stop or reverse existing damage.

You'll also want to have more frequent eye exams performed if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or another chronic health condition that could put you at risk for glaucoma or optic nerve damage. By measuring the pressure in your eye on a regular basis, an ophthalmologist can help steer you toward management or treatment options if your intraocular pressure rises to dangerous levels.

When should you avoid eye exams? 

Although it shouldn't ever be physically harmful for you to have your eyes examined, there are a few situations in which your vision may not be as accurate as normal and an eye exam will need to be repeated at a later date. 

One of these times is during pregnancy. While you're pregnant, your body's volume of red blood cells and plasma increases significantly -- and this excess fluid can pool in your ankles, hands, face, and even change the shape of your eyes. You may experience blurred or sharpened vision during pregnancy as a result of physiological changes in your eyes. Fortunately (or unfortunately as the case may be), these changes won't be permanent, and your eyes should return to normal once you've given birth and flushed out most of the extra water retained. 

This means that ordering contacts or purchasing glasses in a prescription written during pregnancy could leave you with inaccurate vision correction after your baby arrives. If you're pregnant and due for an eye exam, you may want to delay this for a few months to ensure you won't need to repeat your exam within the year (often paying out of pocket to do so).