The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends an eye disease screening for all aging adults.
When Should You See an Ophthalmologist?
For people with no eye problems or risk factors
See an ophthalmologist for a baseline eye disease screening at age 40, even if you have no problems with your vision. It’s important to see an ophthalmologist at age 40 because early signs of disease and changes in vision often begin at this age.
A baseline screening gives your doctor a beginning picture of your overall eye health. Your ophthalmologist will tell you when to return for a follow-up exam. During future exams, your ophthalmologist can see changes in your eye health by comparing results against those at the baseline screening.
For people with eye conditions or risk factors
People of any age with symptoms or risk factors of eye disease should see an ophthalmologist now. They will tell you how often to have eye exams based on your eye health. People in this group should not wait until age 40 to get a baseline eye disease screening.
Risk factors for eye disease include:
If you already see an ophthalmologist to treat ongoing disease or injuries, do not stop. Also, keep your current vision examination appointments for eyeglasses or contact lenses.
Getting your eye health screening at 40 is much like mammograms at 40 or colon screenings at 50. All adults should take similar steps to maintain their eye health as they age.
Why Get an Eye Screening at 40?
A baseline eye exam is important because it may detect eye diseases common in adults aged 40 and older. The exam provides greater chance for early treatment and preservation of vision.
An exam by an ophthalmologist can uncover common conditions like those below. It can also find less common but serious problems, such as ocular tumors. The exam can also reveal systemic diseases that affect the eyes, like hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes. With early treatment, potentially blinding eye problems often have a good outcome. These diseases include glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy.
Common Eye Diseases Found in People 40 and Older
Common eye diseases can impact people 40 and older without them knowing there is any problem with their eyes. An eye screening at 40 can catch these diseases early and prevent vision loss.
In 2010, nearly 3 million people in the U.S. had the most common type of glaucoma. The National Eye Institute (NEI) expects that number to increase to 4.3 million in 2030 and 6.3 million in 2050.
Many people with glaucoma are unaware they have it until it causes significant, irreversible vision loss. This is because this disease often has no symptoms until vision loss is extensive. Early detection and treatment of glaucoma may prevent or delay loss of vision.
Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness and often affects working-aged adults. Diabetic retinopathy statistics from the National Eye Institute are alarming. In 2010, about 7.7 million U.S. adults 40 years and older had diabetic retinopathy. By 2030, that number is expected to increase to 11.3 million, and it will be 14.6 million by 2050.
Effective treatments are available for reducing the risk of blindness from diabetic retinopathy. Unfortunately, many diabetics do not receive treatment in time to reduce vision loss. In fact, in 2017, 7.2 million Americans had diabetes but didn't even know it. That's nearly one quarter of all diabetics.
Cataracts are very common. In 2010 there were 24.4 million cases of cataracts in the United States. We often think of cataracts as strictly a problem for senior citizens. However, the risk of developing cataracts increases at about age 40. Monitor your eye health with an ophthalmologist at 40 and prevent cataracts from interfering with your vision as you age..
Take Steps to Protect Your Vision
If you are age 40 or older and have not had a recent eye disease screening, schedule one with an ophthalmologist today. It is an essential step toward preserving your vision and keeping your eyes healthy.