The health of our eyes is something that needs to be taken seriously. There are many eye conditions that, if detected early, can be corrected or effectively treated and managed. But it’s not always obvious to us if a condition is starting to develop. That’s why regular eye examinations by an optometrist are important, even if you think your vision is fine.
You don’t need a referral to see an optometrist- you can simply make an appointment. Medicare subsidises eye examinations for all Australian permanent residents, so you don’t need private health insurance to get your eyes checked.
But some changes took effect in 2015 for those who are asymptomatic, i.e. have no diagnosed vision issues:
- If you are aged under 65, Medicare will pay for a comprehensive eye exam every three years. You will still be covered for an examination if you develop symptoms that need to be checked within that time.
- If you are over 65, Medicare will pay for a comprehensive eye exam once a year.
Those with diagnosed eye conditions can continue to access Medicare for eye tests every two years.
Why you need regular vision checks
As mentioned, vision changes can come on gradually and go unnoticed. This can happen at any age, but the risk increases after the age of 40. Or if you already wear glasses or contacts, it’s common to need your prescription changed quite regularly. Some signs of a developing vision problem, or changes to your vision, include:
- Holding a book either at arm’s length or close to your face, to focus.
- Blurred text
- Tiredness, eye strain, poor concentration from close-up work
- Spots in your vision
If you notice any of these things, see your optometrist ASAP for the best chance of heading off permanent eye damage.
Some common conditions that benefit from early intervention include:
- Presbyopia: gradual loss of ability to change the shape of the eye’s lens, to focus at normal reading distance. This is a normal part of ageing and can be treated with glasses or contact lenses.
- Glaucoma: gradual loss of peripheral vision, caused by progressive damage to the optic nerve, usually due to pressure in the eye. Can be hereditary and often isn’t noticed until permanent damage has been done.
- AMD (age related macular degeneration): deterioration of the central retina, which distorts central vision. Risk increases with family history, and treatment must be started early
- Cataract: clouding of the eye lens. Easily treated with surgery.
- Diabetic retinopathy: Diabetes can affect the blood vessels at the back of your eye causing vision loss.
There are many more conditions that can develop gradually, so for peace of mind, keep up your regular eye examinations. Contact us to book an appointment.
*Thanks to health.gov.au and Optometry Australia for Medicare and eye condition information contained in this article*