Skip to main content
  • Eye Exams Save Lives

    Some Seniors May Be Eligible for a Free Eye Exam

    SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – Most people are surprised to learn that early signs of serious medical conditions affecting your body can be detected in the eyes. Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, and even Alzheimer’s disease can be detected in the eye. That’s because the blood vessels and nerves in our eyes are reflective of the state of the rest of the body. A routine eye exam can do more than save your eyesight, it can also save your life.

    Take for example Barbara Krupar, a 65-year-old retiree from Ohio who went to her ophthalmologist after experiencing some disturbing changes in her vision. When Nicole Bajic, MD, examined her, she detected possible early warning signs of a stroke, and recommended Barbara go to the emergency room immediately to have her head and neck imaged. The ER physician determined that the carotid artery in her neck was 85 percent blocked. She was at imminent risk of suffering a stroke. The exam likely saved her life.

    “Barbara’s experience really highlights the importance of getting an annual eye exam,” said Dr. Bajic, an ophthalmologist at the Cleveland Clinic and clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “The best care is preventative care. It’s like getting your teeth examined every year. You want to see if something else is brewing.”

    Here’s what else ophthalmologists—physicians who specialize in medical and surgical eye care—want you to know about protecting both your vision and your overall health:

    1. Eat well. A heart-healthy diet full of leafy greens and colorful fruits is also good for the eyes. Studies show foods rich in vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids can lower risk of certain eye diseases, including macular degeneration, cataracts, and dry eye.
    2. Exercise. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of exercise a day. For eye health, the science shows regular exercise can protect your vision and, if you already have an eye disease, it can help you manage it better.
    3. Know your family history. Many leading causes of blindness run in the family, such as macular degeneration and glaucoma. Know your family history and share it with your ophthalmologist at your next eye exam.
    4. Don’t skip routine eye exams. Routine eye exams are important because eye disease often begins without any symptoms. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends all healthy adults receive a comprehensive eye exam by age 40, even if their vision seems fine, and every year or two after age 65.

    For more tips and information, visit

    Some Seniors May Be Eligible for a Free Eye Exam

    For individuals age 65 or older who are concerned about their risk of eye disease, you may be eligible for a medical eye exam, often at no out-of-pocket cost, through the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeCare America® program. This public service program matches volunteer ophthalmologists with eligible patients in need of eye care across the United States. To see if you or a loved one qualifies, visit EyeCare America to determine your eligibility. EyeCare America is co-sponsored by the Knights Templar Eye Foundation Inc., with additional support provided by Alcon and Regeneron.

    About the American Academy of Ophthalmology

    The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. A global community of 32,000 medical doctors, we protect sight and empower lives by setting the standards for ophthalmic education and advocating for our patients and the public. We innovate to advance our profession and to ensure the delivery of the highest-quality eye care. Our EyeSmart® program provides the public with the most trusted information about eye health. For more information, visit