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Did you know an eye exam can do more than measure your eyesight? It can also tell you a lot about your overall health.  

A couple of years ago, my eye doctor noticed my eyesight had dramatically changed. She stopped the exam and told me to get tested for diabetes before she would continue. Luckily, I didn’t have diabetes, but I was borderline. This allowed me to adjust my diet and exercise more. So far, my blood sugar has stayed in check and I thank my eye exam for originally making me aware of this. I never thought an eye exam could be life-saving, but I look at this more holistically now. I now see there is a connection between my vision needs and my medical needs.  

Importance of an Eye Exam 

 A comprehensive eye exam with dilation can detect early signs of serious health conditions like: 

  • diabetes,  
  • high blood pressure 
  • high cholesterol, and more. 1

In fact, more than 30 conditions show symptoms in the eyes, from sickle cell anemia to colon polyps.2 Sometimes dilation isn’t needed to detect serious health conditions. Some things can be picked up by looking in the mirror. For example, looking bug-eyed may be an indicator of an overactive thyroid.  

In addition to health issues, there are also several vision disorders detected during an eye exam. Ask others about the cost of vision loss and they might bring up driving at night or missing out on a good book. They won’t mention what it costs in lost dollars and lost health. The numbers show vision disorders are among the costliest health conditions in the U.S. And that’s just today; The National Association of Vision Care Plans thinks those costs could triple in the next 15 years. 3 

But there’s good news: when you use your vision benefits, you can catch symptoms early and address them. Also, you can save in productivity and long-term care costs.4 That’s not an expense. That’s an investment.  

Vision Plans

We offer vision plans to complement your total health. You can purchase an individual vision plan separately or along with a health plan. Learn More.

When to Get an Eye Exam

Using your vision benefits to get an eye exam is a great way to maintain healthy vision and detect issues early. The recommended cadence for getting an eye exam depends on age and risk factors.

Potential risk factors to keep in mind include a family history of eye disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, taking medications that have eye-related side effects and previous eye injuries or surgeries. If you have any of these risk factors, you may be considered at risk. Those at risk should be received eye exams annually or as recommended by your eye doctor. If you already have glasses or contacts, an eye exam should also be received annually or as recommended by your eye doctor.4

For those not at risk, eye exams do not need to occur as frequently. The American Optometric Association recommends children between the age of 6 and 18 should get an eye exam before first grade and every two years thereafter. Adults between the age of 18 and 64 should receive an eye exam every two years. Those older than 65 should get an eye exam annually.5

You’ve heard the proverb, “Your eyes are the window to your soul,” but what we can clearly see is an eye exam is truly the window to your overall health. It can help you spot many conditions early on, which helps you get treatment sooner. Early treatment often leads to better outcomes and lower costs in the long run. And who doesn’t want that?


1 Eye Site on Wellness, “Make a Date for your Eyes,” EyeMed, accessed May 2018, https://www.eyesightonwellness.com/make-a-date-for-your-eyes-your-annual-exam
2 Kevin Loria. “9 Things Doctors Can Tell About Your Health Just By Looking At Your Eyes,” Business Insider, Sep 22, 2014- accessed June 2018 www.businessinsider.com/signs-of-disease-in-the-eyes-2014-9
3 Susan Donaldson James. “Get An Eye Exam: Arthritis to Cancer Seen in Eye,” ABC News, April 11, 2012- accessed June 2018, https://abcnews.go.com/Health/dozens-diseases-diagnosed-simple-eye-exam/story?id=16111097
4 Prevent Blindness America, “The Cost of Vision Problems,” accessed June 2018 2018, https://www.preventblindness.org/cost-vision-problems
5 “Recommended Eye Examination Frequency for Pediatric Patients and Adults.” American Optometric Association, American Optometric Association, www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/comprehensive-eye-and-vision-examination/recommended-examination-frequency-for-pediatric-patients-and-adults. June 24, 2019
Brigette Sullivan

About Brigette Sullivan

Brigette Sullivan is a Principal Strategic Advisor on the Ancillary Segment team at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. She is an advocate for focusing on overall well-being through proper diet and exercise. She enjoys yoga, gardening, drawing and entertaining with friends.