Serious health issues can often go overlooked by neglecting to receive an annual eye exam. It is commonplace for a large percentage of adults to skip out on seeing their eye doctor
on an annual basis. It may be that they aren’t experiencing any symptoms, or that their primary care doctor has done a poor job of instructing them to see a specialist like an optometrist. A survey on healthy aging conducted by the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation reveals the truth of routine eye care in aging adults. 18% of adults between 50-80 years of age haven’t had their eyes examined by a doctor in over three years. 58% report that their primary care doctor does not ask about their eyes during their annual physical exam. Failing to see your eye doctor for a thorough exam can be extremely risky for adults as they age beyond their 50’s. An eye exam
is much more than a vision test to see if you need to update your glasses. 40% of respondents report that their reason for skipping out on a visit to their eye doctor is simply because they weren’t having any problems with blurry vision. An annual eye exam
is important because a qualified optometrist or ophthalmologist
will test and screen for diseases of the eyes that often have no symptoms related to blurry vision. “Vision is a precious gift that can be taken quietly and slowly,” says Dr. Samuel Teske of The Eye Doctors. “I have lost count of the hundreds of patients who have had their vision saved by receiving routine care and seeking treatment for eye diseases before it’s too late. It pains me to think of the number of people who suffer from any amount of preventable vision loss, especially when it is so easily treatable if caught early.” Another factor that keeps people away from the eye doctor is the perceived cost of a proper eye examination. This is a valid concern that needs to be addressed with actual numbers. The cost for a non-insured patient for a routine eye examination ranges anywhere from $50-$250. The more expensive examinations will most likely be performed by a doctor with more experience and be more thorough with advanced diagnostic equipment. It is important to note, however, that patients over 65 who qualify for Medicare with Part B coverage can usually have around half of this cost covered by insurance. More comprehensive coverage through a Medicare supplement can cover the entire examination every year with a small nominal copayment. Insurance companies are willing to pay for this type of care, because they understand the importance of total health and wellness through an eye exam. Adults in their twilight years need to educate themselves by calling their insurance provider to inquire what type of routine vision benefits are included in their plan. Some populations at risk include adults with diabetes who should have a yearly eye exam, as well as older African-American and Hispanic patients who are more likely to develop glaucoma. According to the results of an ocular disease study, an eye exam may reveal signs of ocular disease before noticeable changes in vision. Almost all of the study’s participants (86%) said they wear glasses or contact lenses, and one quarter said they’d been diagnosed with one of the more common eye diseases, such as cataracts and glaucoma. The study authors said the results may underestimate the low level of screening, because vision impairment
may keep people from participating in the research. Aging Americans are accustomed to the rising cost of health care. However, primary eye care is affordable, and treatment for sight-threatening diseases is almost always covered by the most basic level of health coverage. Experts agree that primary care doctors can help patients have better eye health by simply recommending an annual eye exam during a routine physical. Eye doctors can also play a vital role in making sure their patients are seeing a primary care doctor for an annual wellness exam. Healthy sight is a precious gift not to be forgotten.