Get Your Eyes Tested

The Basics

The Basics: Overview

Get an eye exam 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 may need eye exams more often.
If you have diabetes, it's important to get your eyes tested at least once a year. Talk to your doctor about what’s right for you.

Next section 1 of 9 sections

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 certain types of eye disease.

Learn more about:

Next section Previous section 2 of 9 sections

The Basics: Vision Problems

Am I at risk for a vision problem?
As you get older, your eyes change – and 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 – a condition that makes far away objects look blurry
  • Farsightedness – a condition that makes nearby objects look blurry
  • Astigmatism – a condition that makes things look blurry or distorted at all distances
  • Presbyopia (“prez-bee-OH-pee-uh”) – a condition that makes it hard for older adults to see things up close

Read more about these common vision problems.

See an eye doctor right away if your vision changes suddenly.

Next section Previous section 3 of 9 sections

The Basics: Eye Diseases

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

Next section Previous section 4 of 9 sections

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 happens 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.

There are 2 kinds of doctors that can perform eye exams:

  • Optometrist
  • Ophthalmologist
Next section Previous section 5 of 9 sections

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.

Next section Previous section 6 of 9 sections

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.

Next section Previous section 7 of 9 sections

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
  • Seeing flashes of light
  • Seeing tiny spots that float across your eye
  • Eye pain
  • Redness or swelling

Check out the signs and symptoms of eye problems.

Next section Previous section 8 of 9 sections

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. More than 1 in 4 older adults fall each year. Falling can cause serious injuries and health problems, especially for people over age 65. Learn how to lower your risk of falling.

Previous section 9 of 9 sections