How Often Do You Need an Eye Exam?

When do you need an eye exam?

Doctor examining the eye

Do you need an Eye Exam? Your eyes are rather complex organs,  there are many different things that can go wrong and threaten your sight.  Eye doctors are better at helping a patient keep the vision that they have than they are at restoring vision once it has been lost.  So prevention is key, but how often do you need an eye exam?  Getting regular (routine) eye exams is key to having your doctor diagnose and treat problems early – which helps you keep your sight intact long-term.

It seems that the dentists of the world have done a much better job getting the word out about the benefits of routine check-ups.  Typically, dentists ask their healthy patients to come in for an exam or cleaning every six months.  But what is your ideal schedule for eye care? Consult a doctor to learn more about your eye health and how often should you schedule an eye exam appointment.

Do you need an eye exam every year (routinely) if you still see fine?

Your ideal eye exam frequency depends on a few key factors.  A pretty safe bet is to make sure your kids have a full eye exam before starting 1st grade – or as early as six months of age if you suspect problems.  Then, kids of school age should really be seen annually to catch changes in their Rx or eye health as early as possible.

Starting eye care early on in childhood is crucial for catching, diagnosing, and fixing vision problems that can interfere with the development of sight or with learning.  Over 80% of learning is visual, so make sure your kids can see!  Despite the fact that local schools run vision screenings, a shocking number of problems go undiagnosed.  As it turns out your school nurse and their helpers are not eye doctors. You need an expert to check your children for any eye problems, therefore you shouldn’t rely on these school vision screenings;  instead, take your children to the local optometrist for a proper eye checkup.

Patients who wear contacts are strongly encouraged to do an annual exam.  These lenses are prosthetics that have the potential to cause problems – even when worn properly.  In fact, in almost all states in the US, contact lens prescriptions are only good for 1 year, while a glasses Rx is good for two.

For healthy adults who wear glasses (or don’t need glasses at all), an exam every 2 years works well until age 60.  Beyond that, we suggest going back to annual exams so that any age-related eye diseases are caught early.  There are always exceptions to the rule though; some patients will be asked to come back sooner as needed. It all depends on your eye health and the advice of your doctor.

Risk Factors for Eye Diseases

Some medications such as Accutane (and countless others) can cause dry eye.  The symptoms of dry eye disease often start as a mild blur that improves with blinks, mild discomfort or excessive tearing.  Common over-the-counter steroid nasal sprays can cause swelling in the retina when used too much.  Then there is your family history.  Having immediate family members (grandparents, parents, siblings) with a history of glaucoma, macular degeneration, or other eye diseases can put you at risk as these problems have a genetic component. It is best to get an eye exam to test for these diseases early on so you can catch the diseases earlier and help prevent vision loss..

Two other important risk factors are sun exposure and smoking tobacco.  Lots of sun exposure can cause damage to the front, middle, and back of your eye.  Smoking can too – and is so dangerous to your eye health that there should really be a warning label about the potential to cause blindness on cigarette packs. Wear your sunglasses on a regular basis and talk to your doctor about smoking cessation.

Eye Health Issues Don’t Follow Set Schedules

If an issue comes up with your eye health, comfort, or vision and your annual eye exam are not due for months, you can arrange to come in early.  Your local optometrist can diagnose and treat most eye problems.  Come in to see us as soon as possible if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Flashes of light increased floaters or loss of side vision. These symptoms (one or all of them at once) could be related to a retinal tear or detachment.  Left untreated, these issues in the back of the eye can lead to permanent vision loss or blindness.  A retinal detachment is a true ocular emergency. You need to treat it quickly to avoid vision loss; plan on being dilated.
  • Increased light sensitivity: this can occur when certain parts of the eye are inflamed or during an eye infection.
  • Loss of ability to see well or drive at night: this can be a symptom of cataracts worsening….or you might need updated glasses.
  • Blurred Vision: maybe it’s a medical issue, or maybe you need to update your glasses and contacts for optimal vision. Either way, why wait months to get an eye appointment?
  • Frequent Headaches.  You can resolve headaches associated with visual tasks like computer/phone usage during an eye exam or with updated lenses.


Another consideration is this, numerous systemic diseases (over 270) show up in the eyes. So routine eye care can also keep the rest of your body on track. That’s why the American Optometric Association now recommends annual eye exams.

We look forward to seeing you!

If it’s been a while since your last exam, you can book online or call us.  If you’re not sure how long ago your last exam was at Cannon EyeCare, shoot us a quick email and we will let you know.