Why Older Adults Need a Yearly Eye Exam

  • August 05, 2019

Most older adults know how important it is to see their doctor at least once a year for a checkup. It’s the best way to identify small health problems before they develop into big ones that can’t be treated. What few seniors are aware of is how important it is to pay an annual visit to the eye doctor. Because the risk for eye problems increases with age, older adults need to make vision health a priority.

Seniors and Annual Eye Exams

Would it surprise you to learn that almost 11 million Americans over the age of 12 have a vision issue that requires some kind of correction? Even if you don’t wear corrective lenses, having a yearly eye exam is still important.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that adults over the age of 65 have an annual eye exam that includes dilating your eyes. This gives the doctor a better look at the retina and optic nerve so they can identify any potential problems and intervene early.

An annual eye exam can also help to detect conditions of the eye common among older adults:

  • Cataracts: A condition that causes clouding of the eye’s lens. Cataracts can usually be corrected with surgery.
  • Diabetic retinopathy: A condition related to diabetes, diabetic retinopathy causes damage to the blood vessels in the back of the eye. It is the leading cause of blindness in adults.
  • Macular degeneration: This age-related vision problem affects the light-sensitive tissue in the eye. It can lead to blindness.
  • Retinal tearing: Seniors are also at higher risk for small lacerations in the inner lining of the eye. These can lead to a dangerous retinal detachment or other conditions that impact vision, like black spots or floaters.
  • Glaucoma: This is a term to describe a group of diseases that damage the optic nerve in the eye. It can lead to serious vision loss. Early intervention often helps prevent blindness.

An ophthalmologist can also detect a variety of other health problems during a visit, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and conditions commonly linked to autoimmune diseases.

Who Pays for Vision Exams?

Although Medicare usually doesn’t pay for routine eye exams for corrective lenses, or for the lenses themselves, Medicare Part B does cover some vision exams. Check with your eye doctor if you need clarification.

Local non-profit organizations may have programs or funding available to help defray these expenses for seniors. The agency on aging in your city or county can probably help point you in the right direction.

Another option to explore is The Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. They provide free or low-cost exams to seniors who qualify through their EyeCare America program.

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At Five Star Senior Living, we are committed to connecting older adults and family caregivers with the information and resources they need to live their best life. One way you can stay in touch is by subscribing to our blog. We share the latest news and research throughout the week!


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