Screen_Shot_2024-05-03_at_9.jpegDid you know that many common eye diseases can be detected and treated early by simply getting a routine eye exam? Around 12 million Americans aged 40 and above have vision impairment, including 1 million blind individuals, 3 million individuals who have impaired vision even after correction, and 8 million with an uncorrected refractive error.

As we celebrate Healthy Vision Month this May, it's important to understand how regular eye exams can not only help you maintain good vision but also potentially save your sight. With Everett & Hurite, Pittsburgh's top eye care specialists, you can have peace of mind knowing that your eye health is in good hands.

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If you've never had an eye exam before, then you may be wondering why it's so important. Keep reading to discover more about the preventative and diagnostic power of regular eye exams.

Detection of Eye Diseases

An eye exam is about more than just checking your vision and getting a new prescription for glasses or contacts. It's also an opportunity to detect any signs of eye diseases that may be developing, even before you notice any symptoms. Some of the most common eye diseases that can be detected early during a routine eye exam include:


Cataracts occur when the lens of your eye, which is normally clear, becomes clouded as proteins break down. This condition is most commonly associated with aging, though exposure to too much sunlight, diabetes, smoking, and even certain medications can speed up the process.

The most common symptoms of cataracts are blurry or cloudy vision, increased sensitivity to light, difficulty seeing at night, and colors appearing less vibrant. However, even before these symptoms start, an eye doctor can see the beginnings of cataracts during an eye exam.

Typically, cataracts in their early stages are treated with new glasses or contact lenses, as changing your prescription can often help with the blurred vision caused by cataracts. However, as the condition progresses, surgery may be necessary to remove the clouded lens and replace it with an artificial one. This is a common and relatively simple procedure that can greatly improve vision and quality of life for those suffering from cataracts.


Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can cause damage to the optic nerve, leading to vision loss and blindness if left untreated. It is often referred to as the 'silent thief of sight' because it typically has no symptoms in its early stages. Early detection of glaucoma through regular eye exams is critical because this condition often goes unnoticed until significant vision loss has occurred.

By the time patients recognize symptoms, such as narrow vision fields or blurry vision, the optic nerve may have already suffered irreversible damage. Regular eye exams enable the optometrists and ophthalmologists at Everett & Hurite to catch the early signs of glaucoma—often before the patient is aware of any issues.

This early detection is crucial for initiating treatments that can slow the progression of the disease, significantly reducing the risk of vision loss or blindness. Treatments may include medications, laser treatments, or surgery to lower eye pressure and protect the optic nerve.

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Age-related macular degeneration, also known as AMD, is a common eye disease among older adults that can cause vision loss in the central part of your vision. AMD is a leading cause of vision loss in people  over the age of 50

There are two types of AMD: wet and dry. Wet AMD is when abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina, while dry AMD is when the macula (the part of your eye responsible for central vision) thins over time.

Detecting AMD early through regular eye exams is crucial for managing its impact on vision. AMD, especially in its early stages, often does not present noticeable symptoms, making routine screenings the key to early identification. By diagnosing AMD early, the optometrists and ophthalmologists at Everett & Hurite can initiate interventions that may significantly slow the disease's progression.

This is particularly important for dry AMD, where certain vitamin supplements are known to help in reducing the rate of degeneration. For wet AMD, early detection means that treatments like injections or laser therapy can be started sooner, potentially preserving more of the patient’s central vision and overall quality of life. The importance of early detection cannot be overstated, as it opens the door to treatment options that can lead to better outcomes and a lower risk of severe vision loss.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes, caused by high blood sugar levels damaging the blood vessels of the retina. It's a leading cause of blindness among working-age adults, and its early detection during an eye exam is paramount for preventing severe vision loss.

Early stages of diabetic retinopathy may not present with any symptoms, but as it progresses, individuals may experience blurred vision, dark floaters in their vision, and difficulty seeing at night. Early detection facilitates timely treatment, significantly lowering the risk of blindness.

Treatment options vary depending on the stage of the disease but may include managing blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol to slow progression, as well as laser treatments, injections of corticosteroids, or anti-VEGF therapy to reduce swelling and prevent further blood vessel leakage. For advanced stages, vitrectomy surgery might be necessary to remove blood from the middle of the eye.

Detection of Other Health Issues

Did you know that an eye exam can also reveal other health issues beyond just your eyes?  The eyes are often referred to as the 'windows to the soul,' but they can also provide important insights into your overall health. During a routine eye exam, an eye doctor may be able to detect signs of various health conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and even certain types of cancer.

For instance, during an eye exam, your eye doctor may notice changes in the blood vessels at the back of your eye, which can indicate high blood pressure. They may also see signs of diabetes, such as leaking blood vessels or damaged nerves in the retina.

Eye exams can also reveal potential signs of cancer. Changes in the appearance of the eye or surrounding tissues may indicate skin cancer, and certain types of tumors can be seen during an exam.

Regular eye exams not only help to maintain good eye health, but they can also serve as a timely warning for other health issues that may require further medical attention. In this way, scheduling routine eye exams is not only beneficial for your vision but for your overall well-being as well.

When to Have an Eye Exam

Everyone's eyes are different, so how often you need an eye exam depends on your age, risk factors, and whether you currently wear glasses or contact lenses. Here's a general guide:

  • Children should have their vision checked at 6 months, 3 years, before first grade, and at least once a year until adulthood.
  • Adults should have a complete eye exam at least every two years after age 18.
  • Seniors aged 65 and older should have annual check-ups.

If you have diabetes, a family history of eye diseases, or other health conditions that affect your eyes, you may need more frequent eye exams.

What to Expect During an Eye Exam

Now that you understand the importance of regular eye exams, here's what you can expect during a routine eye exam:

  • Medical History Review: Your eye doctor will ask about any medical conditions you have, medications you take, and any family history of eye diseases.
  • Visual Acuity Test: This is the classic “read the letters on the chart” test to determine how well you can see at various distances.
  • Refraction: This test measures your eye’s focusing ability and helps determine your prescription for glasses or contact lenses.
  • Pupil Dilation: Our eye doctor may put drops in your eyes to widen your pupils, allowing for a better view of the back of your eye.
  • Eye Movement and Coordination: Our eye doctor will check how well your eyes move and work together.
  • Visual Field Test: This exam checks your peripheral vision and can help detect eye diseases such as glaucoma.
  • Eye Health Evaluation: Using special instruments, our eye doctor will examine your retinas, optic nerve, and blood vessels for signs of disease.
  • Other Tests: Depending on your specific needs, other tests may be performed to check for color blindness, depth perception, and potential vision issues caused by certain health conditions.

Maintain Healthy Vision With Everett & Hurite!

Regular eye exams are essential for maintaining healthy sight and can serve as a window to your overall health. Early detection of eye disease improves treatment success, reducing the risk of permanent vision loss. These comprehensive eye exams can also identify other health issues, allowing for timely intervention.

At Everett & Hurite, our experienced and caring eye doctors provide comprehensive eye exams to help you maintain your vision and overall health. Contact us today to schedule your next eye exam. Keep an eye on your vision – it's worth it!

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