Every time you see your eye doctor, make sure you’re leaving with the appropriate vision correction.
There comes a time when you start to notice your vision isn’t as sharp as it used to be. Maybe you have to hold books and newspapers farther away from your eyes—the result of a change in your focusing ability, called presbyopia. Or, the world might look more blurred and faded than it once did, possibly because of an eye disease like cataracts or macular degeneration.
Get any signs of vision loss checked out and treated. “You need to be seen yearly for an eye exam, because a lot of eye diseases can happen as women get older,” advises Dr. Mark Bernardo, clinical instructor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. Correcting vision problems improves more than just your ability to read and watch TV. Wearing the right glasses or contact lenses can help you avoid a fall and injury.
Yet even with the best and most consistent eye care, you still could be wearing the wrong eyeglass prescription. In part, that’s because many of the tests your eye doctor performs—including the visual acuity test, in which you read progressively smaller letters off a chart—require you to respond accurately to what you’re seeing. If you’re feeling tired or unwell on the day of your exam, it could affect your responses and therefore your prescription.
Your vision can also decline so slowly that you might not discover it, and neglect to see your doctor for a prescription update. “Sometimes people don’t notice those issues in the beginning because they’re mild, but they can progress,” Dr. Bernardo says.
Leaving with the right glasses
Seeing your ophthalmologist or optometrist at least once a year for vision checks will help you stay on top of any vision problems and correct them before they can affect your health or safety. If you’re concerned that your prescription might be incorrect, try out your glasses or contact lenses in different situations before you leave the doctor’s office. Walk around with your glasses on, and try to read up-close and at a distance. Make sure your depth perception seems right, and that you can read the letters clearly without straining. “Let the eye doctor know if there’s something you’re not comfortable with or it’s not clear,” Dr. Bernardo adds.
Also avoid treating your own vision loss by purchasing off-the-rack drugstore reading glasses. Though they may be more economical than glasses you buy from your eye doctor, they’re only designed to provide generic vision correction, and they can’t account for astigmatism (changes in the curve of your eye) or different prescriptions in each eye. “Over-the-counter readers can mask the problem or only provide temporary relief,” says Dr. Bernardo. “To figure out the accurate prescription, you need to get an exam.”
Better vision at home
Are you having trouble seeing around the home? Beyond getting your eyeglass prescription checked, here are a few tips to help you avoid eyestrain and falls: