Q: I recently made an appointment for an eye exam, but when I arrived and told the staff I only wanted my vision checked, they insisted that the doctor must examine my eyes for disease also. I feel like I was misled. What gives?
A: Yours is a fairly common question we hear in our office also. I suppose that naturally when I have a change in my vision or a problem in my vision, I assume that my glasses need to be changed...or maybe I need glasses, if I have not had them before. This seems logical.
However, most of the public would be fairly astounded to learn how often a “vision problem” is actually caused by a disease. Many diseases inside our eye/s, and many diseases in our body...but not in our eye/s...give only vision changes as a symptom. These symptoms could be blurry vision, vision changes that come and go, changes in our field of vision ( peripheral vision up, down, left or right ), or even doubled vision. There are many more, but suffice it to say that vision changes can occur, totally without any eye pain, and be our only clue that something is wrong.
So when I plan to have my vision checked, I am likely not even considering any health or disease possibilities. But your eye doctor is. You can be sure that the single biggest concern for every eye doctor in America is that we might miss a serious disease issue by only testing your vision. In fact, I do not know any eye doctors who will perform “just a vision exam” without insisting on examining the interior of your eyes. I think our staff assumes that everyone knows the eye doctor will need to examine for disease possibilities. I doubt that a staff person would even think to ask if you want your eye health examined...as we see that as a “given” component of each and every eye exam.
In fact, many people are not sure if an eye exam is covered by a vision plan or medical insurance. People often plan to use their vision plan for their eye exam, but discover that because an eye health problem or other disease issue was found, only medical insurance must be billed. Vision plans generally require your eye doctor to submit all examination procedures and tests to your medical plan.
So this whole idea of what really constitutes a complete eye exam can seem confusing. As an eye doctor, I see the vision testing part of your exam to be very important, but certainly not the main reason I am very thorough. In fact, many medical insurance companies separate the vision testing ( called the “refraction” ) from the rest of the exam testing. So getting a very thorough refraction by your doctor, not a technician, is critical for seeing your best, but being certain that no disease is involved is even more important.
As the American Optometric Association says in their new public awareness ads, “Eye Deserves More!” And you really do deserve more than just a vision check. We all want to see our world as clearly and comfortably as possible, but we need to be sure that no disease is causing our symptoms.