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​​What Diseases Can Be Detected in an Eye Exam?

A woman at the optometrists getting an eye exam to ensure she isn't at risk for any eye diseases

Your ocular health and vision are important, and comprehensive eye exams play a crucial role in protecting your eyes. During your exam, what kind of diseases can your optometrist identify? 

Continue reading to learn more about eye exams, including why they’re important and what eye diseases your optometrist can detect. 

What is an Eye Exam? 

A comprehensive eye exam features several tests conducted by your optometrist to help evaluate your eye health and vision. The goal of these tests is to identify any potential problems as early as possible and assess your health. 

An eye exam is not the same as a vision screening. Your eye doctor looks at the entirety of your eye to complete a thorough evaluation. If your optometrist identifies any issues, they will create a customized treatment plan to address your ocular needs. 

Regular eye examinations can help your optometrist track the progress of any present issues and determine if you’re experiencing any other problems. How often should you be making an appointment? 

How Often Do You Need an Eye Exam? 

The American Optometric Association recommends any adults between ages 18 to 64 receive an examination every 2 years. An annual exam is beneficial, especially if you’re at risk of eye disease. 

Older adults should have an annual exam to help protect their ocular health. You may need more frequent appointments if your optometrist believes this is necessary. 

What Happens During an Eye Exam? 

There are several necessary elements of a comprehensive eye exam, beginning with your medical history. This conversation helps your optometrist ensure your information is up-to-date and you can ask any questions you may have. 

After this discussion, your eye doctor will assess your vision and refraction using an eye chart and phoropter. These tools help to diagnose any refractive errors and determine the prescription offering you the clearest vision. 

Your exam includes an eye health evaluation. Your optometrist will look at the structures of your eye to help diagnose any eye conditions or diseases. Some possible tests your eye doctor will conduct include: 

After reviewing your test results, your optometrist can diagnose any issues and recommend effective treatments to help manage your condition, if present. 

The Importance of Eye Exams

Eye exams can help your optometrist detect eye conditions early, protecting your vision from worsening. Many eye diseases may show no symptoms until vision loss occurs, so eye exams are crucial for early identification. The earlier treatment begins, the higher your chance of recovery and prevention of further ocular damage

Comprehensive eye exams can help your optometrist identify any problems affecting you, but what diseases can they diagnose? 

An x-ray of an eye with Diabetic Retinopathy and an optometrist pointing to an area of the eye that has blocked blood vessels due to this condition

What Diseases Can Be Diagnosed During an Eye Exam? 

Your optometrist can diagnose many different conditions during a comprehensive eye exam. Some common diseases that can significantly affect your health and vision include:


Glaucoma is a progressive condition that causes damage to your optic nerve. It can lead to severe and unrecoverable vision loss. It’s common in adults over 60 but can develop at any age; an estimated 3 million Americans live with this condition

Glaucoma can develop without any warning signs until you experience vision loss. Most forms of this condition cause increased eye pressure. 

There are 3 common types of glaucoma: 

All of these forms of glaucoma can affect your health, but closed-angle glaucoma is a medical emergency

Age-Related Macular Degeneration 

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that affects your central vision. As this condition progresses, you’ll begin to lose your central vision while your peripheral vision stays unaffected. 

This condition develops when aging damages your macula, the part of your eye that controls your forward vision. While this disease doesn’t cause complete blindness, you can lose your ability to see faces, drive, or complete close-up tasks. 

There are 2 forms of AMD: 

  • Dry AMD: This is a gradually progressing condition where your vision blurs as your macula thins; it’s the most common form of AMD
  • Wet AMD: This is a condition where abnormal blood vessels leak fluid & blood into the macula; it’s a medical emergency

Diabetic Retinopathy 

Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that can develop in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Earlier stages of this disease cause microaneurysms to come from the walls of blood vessels in the eye. This bulging can cause blood and fluid to leak into your retina, known as nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy

The other form of this disease is proliferative diabetic retinopathy. This condition occurs when blocked blood vessels disrupt oxygen flow, causing new, abnormal blood vessels to develop. 


A cataract is the clouding of your eye’s lens. This condition progresses with time until it affects your vision, making it difficult to see, read, or drive. 

You may not notice symptoms at first, but many people require treatment when this condition worsens. You typically need cataract surgery to resolve this condition.  

These are only a few of the diseases your eye doctor can detect during an eye examination. With regular eye exams, your optometrist can help you protect your eyes and vision. 

If you’re experiencing any concerns or need an eye exam, book an appointment today

Written by Dr. Cheryl Everitt

Cheryl M. Everitt, OD, received her Doctor of Optometry degree from the Southern California College of Optometry in Fullerton, California in 1994. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from California State University, Fullerton. Dr. Everitt takes a special interest in treating patients with a variety of difficult eye conditions, such as chronic headaches and migraines. Dr. Everitt has been a conference speaker on topics ranging from contact lenses to practice management to trigeminal dysphoria. She has also participated in a mobile eye clinic in Riverside, and medical missions to Mexico. Dr. Everitt is one of the original founders of 20/20 Vision Associates Optometry and has practiced for 25 years. She was an associate research scientist for 4 years prior to becoming an optometrist. She is also an active member of her church.
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