The average American would probably concede that annual preventive visits to their primary care physician (PCP) and dentist are key to maintaining whole-body health. But for some reason, a large number of Americans are comfortable with neglecting their eyesight.
Why is that?
Money certainly plays a role. Americans already spend more on medical care each year than their international peers, yet insurance plans don’t always cover the full cost of eye exams. According to a study by Versant Health, 39% of Americans say they skip their annual visit to the eye doctor due to cost concerns.
However, eye exams are generally less expensive than you might think. Even without insurance, eye exams can start as low as $50. For a relatively nominal fee, they provide a nonintrusive way of gauging your holistic health and spotting potential concerns early — before they become bigger problems.
Plus, regularly visiting the eye doctor can help you save money in the long term. The same Versant Health study ranked eye exams among the top three ways to control overall healthcare costs — right after visiting your primary care provider and dentist.
How Often Do You Need an Eye Exam? But Really.
Financial issues aside, many people assume they only need to see an eye doctor if they have problems with their vision.
“If I can see just fine without glasses,” the thinking goes. “Do I really need an eye exam every year?”
This is a dangerous misconception. Yearly eye exams can provide a ton of useful information on your general health. During an exam, your doctor can screen for up to 30 different health problems, including:
- Hypertension (i.e., high blood pressure).
- Graves’ disease.
- High cholesterol.
- Macular degeneration.
- And so much more.
Early detection and timely treatment are critically important to preventing these diseases from escalating further. In some cases, these issues can lead to permanent vision loss or blindness. Cataracts, a clouding of the eye’s normally clear lens, is one of the leading causes of blindness. In the U.S. alone, roughly 17% of folks older than 40 have a cataract in one or both eyes; another 5% have had their lens surgically removed.
Routine vision care can help preserve millions of people’s vision. Consider, for example, that 90% of blindness caused by diabetes is preventable. Yet of the estimated 93 million American adults at high risk for vision loss, only 50% have visited an eye doctor in the past year.
Finally, eye health and brain health are intrinsically linked. Your optic nerve connects your eyes and your brain, so a healthy relationship between the two is a must. In short, keeping your eyes healthy keeps your brain healthy. Good vision contributes to improved athletic ability, driving skills, learning and comprehension, and quality of life.
The next time you’re thinking about skipping your annual eye exam, think again. Not only is preventive vision care less expensive than you might assume, but it also supports your whole-body health.