Haven’t had an eye exam since pre-pandemic?

It's probably time.

By Ronald Allen, DO, ophthalmology

Young Black man sitting at a table experiencing eyestrain

If you’ve put off your regular eye exams for the last few years, that’s understandable; there’s been a lot going on. Now, though, it’s probably time to get caught up.

Adults with no vision problems or eye symptoms are advised to get eye exams on the following schedule: 

  • Age 20-39: every 5 years
  • Age 40-54: every 2-4 years
  • Age 55-64: every 1-3 years
  • Age 65 and up: every 1-2 years

If you do have vision issues — for example, if you wear glasses or contact lenses, have a family history of eye disease, or have diabetes or other chronic conditions that put you at risk for eye disease — then you should have eye exams more frequently.

Most pediatricians monitor for common childhood problems until age 3. After that, children should have their first eye exam before first grade, and as long as there’s no family history of vision problems, should continue to have regular eye exams every 1-3 years until adulthood.

Why have an eye exam if your vision hasn’t changed?

In the early stages of glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, cataracts or certain eye cancers, you might not notice any symptoms or changes in your vision — but a vision professional can spot the signs during a routine exam. Catching and treating these conditions early can mean the difference between saving or losing your vision. In the case of certain cancers, early detection can even save your life.

Who does eye exams: optometrists or ophthalmologists?

For a regular, comprehensive eye exam, either an optometrist or ophthalmologist is a good option. 

  • Optometrists (ODs) are licensed professionals who mostly perform eye exams and vision tests, as well as prescribe glasses and contact lenses. They also can detect and treat many eye problems and prescribe medications for certain eye diseases.
  • Ophthalmologists (MDs or DOs) are medical doctors who are licensed to diagnose and treat all eye conditions and to perform eye surgery, in addition to providing eye exams and prescribing corrective lenses.

See The Portland Clinic’s Ophthalmology & Eye Services page for a detailed breakdown of the services provided by different eye-care professionals.

Your vision is worth an hour

A comprehensive eye exam takes only about an hour. During that time, your provider will go over your full medical and vision history, check your vision, measure any existing lens or contact prescriptions and determine whether you need any new prescriptions. We’ll measure your pupils, visual fields, eye movement and eye pressure. And we’ll put drops in your eyes to dilate your pupils so that we can see inside your eyes to thoroughly examine the optic nerve, blood vessels and retina. It’s a very thorough exam, and well worth an hour of your time.

The ability to see is one of the miracles of the human body. Just as regular maintenance of a maturing car can keep it in excellent driving condition, so can regular “maintenance” eye exams help keep your miraculous peepers working for a lifetime.

Sudden vision changes require urgent attention. Read Dr. Allen’s blog post: In the Blink of an Eye.

The Portland Clinic Eye Clinic provides comprehensive eye-care services, from routine eye exams and glasses/contact lens prescriptions to complex medical and surgical eye treatment — all within your trusted medical group.