U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Get Your Eyes Tested

The Basics

The Basics: Overview

Have your eyes tested (examined) regularly to help find problems early, when they may be easier to treat. The doctor will also do tests to make sure you are seeing as clearly as possible.

How often do I need an eye exam?
How often you need an eye exam depends on your risk for eye disease. Talk to your doctor about how often to get your eyes tested.

Get an eye exam every 1 to 2 years if you:

  • Are over age 60
  • Are African American and over age 40
  • Have a family history of glaucoma

People with diabetes need eye exams more often.
If you have diabetes, get your eyes tested at least once a year.

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The Basics: Eye Exams

What happens during an eye exam?

  • The doctor will ask you questions about your health and vision.
  • You will read charts with letters and numbers so the doctor can check your vision.
  • The doctor will do tests to look for problems with your eyes, including glaucoma.
  • The doctor will put drops in your eyes to dilate (enlarge) your pupils. A dilated eye exam is the only way to find some types of eye disease.

Learn more about:

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The Basics: Vision Problems

Am I at risk for a vision problem?
As you get older, your eyes change. This increases your chance of developing a vision problem. You may be at higher risk if one of your parents had a vision problem, like needing to wear glasses.

Common vision problems are:

  • Nearsightedness – when far away objects are blurry
  • Farsightedness – when far away objects are easier to see than near ones
  • Astigmatism – a condition that makes it hard to see fine details
  • Presbyopia (“prez-bee-OH-bee-uh”) – problems seeing things up close

Read more about common vision problems. See an eye doctor right away if your vision or eyes suddenly change.

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The Basics: Eye Diseases

Am I at risk for eye disease?
Getting older increases your risk of certain eye diseases. You may be at higher risk if you have diabetes or high blood pressure – or if you have a family member with diabetes or an eye disease.

Eye diseases like glaucoma can lead to vision loss and blindness if they aren’t caught and treated early.

Depending on your age and medical history, the doctor may look for eye problems that are common in older adults, including:

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The Basics: Vision Screenings

What's the difference between a vision screening and an eye exam?
A vision screening is a short checkup for your eyes. It usually takes place during a regular doctor visit. Vision screenings can only find certain eye problems.

An eye exam takes more time than a vision screening, and it’s the only way to find some types of eye disease.

These 2 kinds of doctors can perform eye exams:

  • Optometrist
  • Ophthalmologist
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Take Action!

Take Action: Schedule Your Exam

Protect your vision. Get regular eye exams so you can find problems early, when they may be easier to treat.

Schedule an eye exam.
Ask your doctor or health center for the name of an eye care professional. Or use these tips for finding an eye doctor.

When you go for your exam, be sure to:

  • Ask the doctor for a dilated eye exam.
  • Tell the doctor if anyone in your family has eye problems or diabetes.

For more help, go through this checklist for your eye doctor appointment.

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Take Action: Cost and Insurance

What about cost?
Check with your insurance plan about costs and co-payments.

Medicare covers eye exams for:

If you don’t have insurance, look for free or low-cost eye care programs where you live.

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Take Action: Watch for Problems

Tell a doctor about problems.
See an eye doctor right away if you have any of these problems:

  • Sudden loss of vision
  • Flashes of light
  • Tiny spots that float across your eye
  • Eye pain
  • Redness or swelling

Check out the signs and symptoms of eye problems.

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Take Action: Lower Your Risk

Get regular physical exams.
Get regular checkups to help you stay healthy. Ask your doctor or nurse how you can prevent type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. These diseases can cause eye problems if they aren’t treated.

Lower your risk of falling.
Poor vision or the wrong glasses can increase your risk of falling. One in 3 older adults will fall each year. Falling can cause serious injuries and health problems, especially for people over age 64. Learn how to lower your risk of falling.

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