Changes in vision are often what draw adults to schedule an appointment with their ophthalmologist, but even those with good vision can benefit from a yearly eye examination.

An annual eye exam is about more than testing visual acuity, it is an opportunity for your ophthalmologist to evaluate eye muscle movement, determine how well your eyes work together and how well your pupils react to light and objects. Depending on your health history and any vision symptoms you may be experiencing, your ophthalmologist may perform additional tests during a routine eye exam as well.

A comprehensive eye exam includes visual field tests, tests to evaluate how light reflects from your eyes and what the the fluid pressure is inside your eyes. It also includes an assessment of the overall condition of your eyes (including the cornea, iris, lens, anterior chamber, retina, vitreous and optic nerve head) and eyelids.

Routine eye exams are vital since many eye conditions have no notable symptoms in the early stages. Glaucoma and retinal tears and detachments are examples of problems that often go undetected by patients. But without proper treatment, these conditions can lead to permanent vision loss.

Regular eye exams also provide valuable insight to overall health. Ophthalmologists often uncover valuable clues on routine eye exams that indicate a patient is suffering from a serious medical condition. Damage to the small vessels in the retina or retinal bleeding can signal a patient is suffering from a disease like diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol or cancer. Brain tumors, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis are other illnesses that sometimes manifest in vision symptoms.

Bottom line – don’t wait for vision problems to surface before scheduling your annual eye exam. By the time symptoms appear, eye damage may have already occurred. Regular eye exams help keep your eyes healthy and reduce the risk of vision loss. Just a few minutes of your time each year is a small price to pay to preserve the precious gift of sight.