Why Are Eye Exams an Important Part of Your Health?

Eye exams can help ophthalmologists identify vision changes. They’re also critical for finding problems like cataracts and glaucoma.

Did you know eye exams may also show symptoms of diseases that can affect your entire body? Keep reading to learn why eye exams are an important part of your health!


diagram of normal eye and eye with diabetic retinopathy

People who have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes may have diabetic retinopathy. This condition can happen when the blood vessels in the retina are damaged.

The tiny tubes may shrink due to high blood sugar. This narrowing reduces blood and oxygen flow.

Blood vessel deterioration can limit the eye’s ability to take in light, leading to the interruption of your vision. You may not notice symptoms of mild retinopathy.

Blurred or fluctuating vision can be signs of this complication. Dark or missing areas and floaters are also common. The condition can cause blindness if not treated.

Mild retinopathy might not need treatment. Patients with moderate-to-severe cases can get focal laser treatment to reduce blood and fluid leaks in the eye. Injection medications may also help.

Anyone who has diabetes is at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. If your diabetes is not under control, you’re more likely to develop this condition.

High Cholesterol

diagram of normal artery and one blocked by cholesterol

As you age, you may develop high cholesterol. Cholesterol is a wax-like material in the blood that builds cells.

Large amounts of cholesterol can clog the blood vessels and reduce blood flow. During an eye exam, an ophthalmologist may notice a bluish ring forming around your cornea.

This circle is a grouping of cholesterol called arcus senilis. It will not affect your vision, but it can be a sign that you have high cholesterol.

You may also have a greater risk of plaque buildup on the arteries in the eye. The blockages can cause tissue death. The tissue death is called branch retinal artery occlusion.

When clogs in the primary optical arteries occur, it’s called central retinal artery occlusion. These blocks are like strokes in the eye.

They cut off blood flow and oxygen to the optical tissue. You may develop sudden blindness from this plaque without surgery or blood-thinning medication.

If you have these conditions, you also have a higher likelihood of having arterial plaque that affects the brain. If you have high cholesterol, you are at an increased risk of stroke or an aneurysm.

You may learn that you have high cholesterol after an eye doctor notices a bluish ring around the cornea. Get regular cholesterol checks with a physician to manage high cholesterol and avoid retinal artery occlusion.


diagram of hypertension

High blood pressure is also known as hypertension. This condition occurs when your heart has to work extra hard to force blood to flow around the body.

It can happen slowly over time as you age. Or, it might be related to a secondary condition like thyroid issues or obstructive sleep apnea.

High blood pressure in the eyes can tear the vessels in the retina. These bleeds may blur your sight. Limited blood flow to the optic nerve can increase bleeding and cause vision loss.

You may take blood pressure medications to address mild-to-moderate high blood pressure. Severe cases can permanently damage the eyes. Attend regular physicals with your primary care physician and see your eye doctor regularly to avoid sight loss.


Eye doctors may spot basal cell carcinoma when inspecting the eyelids. This skin cancer often presents as tumors that grow slowly.

eye cancer found during eye exam

They can start as a reddish bump on the lower eyelid. You may notice eyelash loss around the growth. Basal cell carcinoma requires surgery to remove the tumor.

The condition of your eyes and eyelids can also indicate tumors. Droopy eyelids or irregularly shaped pupils could be a sign that you have an aneurism or neck tumors.

Cancer treatments like chemotherapy can increase cataract severity. It may also cause chronic dry eyes that require prescription medication. You might need higher strength prescriptions due to vision loss from chemotherapy side effects.

Radiation near the eyes can cause inflammation in the eyes or bleeding retinas. These side effects require treatment to prevent damage and vision loss. Your eye doctor and physician can watch for these issues if you are undergoing radiation.

When should I have an eye exam?

The exact frequency that you should have eye exams depends on several factors, including your age and how healthy your eyes are. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, you should see your ophthalmologist for an eye exam every year.

Seeing your ophthalmologist will ensure that you have an updated prescription. If you don’t wear glasses or contact lenses, you should have an eye exam every two to three years.

This number tends to vary between eye doctors, but most agree that seeing your eye doctor regularly is a good idea. Talk with your eye doctor for eye exam timing recommendations based on your health.

What is my eye doctor looking for during an eye exam?

During your next eye exam, you may be wondering what exactly your eye doctor is looking for. Yes, your ophthalmologist at Bausch Eye Associates will keep an eye out for suspicious health problems, but more importantly, they will be looking for eye problems.

There are several eye conditions and diseases that they will examine you for, including:

  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma
  • Prescription changes and updates
  • If you’re exhibiting any symptoms of dry eye syndrome
  • Age-related macular degeneration

patient during an eye exam

To examine your eyes during your eye exam, your eye doctor will perform several tests. The first one you may think of is visual acuity, which measures how you see compared to the standard 20/20 vision.

You’ll look at letters on a sign that’s a certain distance away and then be asked to read the line that’s easiest to see. Another standard test during your eye exam is conducting a retinoscopy.

This allows your eye doctor to approximate what your ideal lens prescription is. You’ll gaze through the phoropter while your eye doctor flips lenses in front of your eyes.

To figure out your eyeglasses prescription, your eye doctor will conduct a refraction test. This also involves looking in the phoropter and then looking at the eye chart.

They’ll ask you which lenses are easiest and clearest to see off two lens options. From your answers, they’ll determine if you’re nearsighted, farsighted, or have astigmatism.

These are only some of the tests that you can expect during your next eye exam. If you’re ever nervous before an eye exam, you can always ask what tests your eye doctor will perform, so you know what to expect.

Concerned that you can’t remember the last time you saw an eye doctor or had an eye exam? Schedule an appointment with one of the talented eye doctors at Bausch Eye Associates in Allentown, PA, today!