40s and 50s Eye Exams

eye chart mdRegular eye exams become more important as you reach your 40s and 50s. If you have worn eye glasses or contact lenses, you'll want to keep up with the changes in your vision by updating your prescription, but you also want to be certain there’s no vision problem beginning to develop. Some of these problems may not have physical symptoms until they’re advanced. You should have eye exams at least every two years (or more frequently based on the recommendation of your eye doctor) once you’ve reached 40 – and these exams are even more important if you have high blood pressure, diabetes or a family history of eye disease.

Of course, between examinations, if you notice a change in your vision – or your eye is injured in any way – contact your eye doctor as soon as possible.

What Can You Expect at Your Eye Exam?

Each eye doctor has his or her own routine, but most eye exams follow a similar pattern and by now you should be familiar with how it works. Your eye doctor will review your personal and family medical history to see if you may be at special risk for eye problems. Then, your doctor will conduct tests to check for:

  • Vision - The doctor can check for nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), astigmatism and presbyopia. While you look at an eye chart, the doctor will measure your vision precisely, and, if necessary, determine a prescription for corrective lenses.
  • Coordination of eye muscles - The doctor will move a light in a set pattern to test your ability to use both eyes together.
  • Side (peripheral) vision - The doctor will move an object at the edge of your field of vision to make sure you can see it.
  • Pupil response to light - The doctor will shine a light in your eye and watch the pupil's reaction.
  • Color testing - The doctor will ask you to describe figures in a series of illustrations made up of numerous colored dots or circles. This tests your ability to differentiate colors.
  • Eyelid health and function - The doctor will examine your eyelid, inside and out.
  • The interior and back of the eye - After dilating your eyes (by both using a few eye drops and dimming the lights so the pupils will widen), your eye doctor will use an instrument called an ophthalmoscope to see through to the retina and optic nerve at the back of the eye. This is where clues to many eye diseases first show up.
  • Measurement of fluid pressure - Your eye doctor will measure the pressure inside your eyes using a tonometer. High pressure may be an early indicator of glaucoma and other diseases.

What Can I Do to Self-Monitor My Vision Between Professional Visits?

One way to self-monitor between professional visits is by looking at an Amsler grid. This is a pattern that resembles a checkerboard with a dot in the center. While staring at the dot, you may notice that the straight lines in the pattern appear wavy. Or you may notice that some of the lines are missing. Print and take the quick vision test using the Amsler grid. By looking at an Amsler grid regularly you can monitor any sudden changes in your vision. If you do notice any changes, contact your eye doctor right away.

Amsler grid - normal vision

Amsler Grid Normal

Amsler grid - with AMD

Amsler Grid AMD

Here's how:

  1. Do the test with each eye separately by covering the eye that’s not being tested.

  2. Hold the test grid directly in front of you, about 14 inches from your face, and look at the dot in the center of the grid, not at the lines.

  3. While looking at the dot, all the lines, both vertical and horizontal, should appear straight and unbroken.

  4. If any of the straight lines appear wavy, or you notice that some of the lines seem to be missing, note their location on the grid for future reference and contact your eye doctor.

Remember, this test is not meant to replace your regularly scheduled eye examinations. The best way to detect and monitor for conditions affecting the macula is for your eye care professional to use special instruments to examine the back of the eye.