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Your eye doctor isn’t the only one with an active role in your eye health. You play a big part, too!
You’ve set the date for your next eye exam. Congratulations! You’ve given your vision top priority. Now that you’ve made your appointment, a little advance planning can help you get the most out your time with the eye doctor.
“There are lots of things you can do to maximize your visit,” says Jeff Foster, O.D., an optometrist who sees patients at America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses in San Antonio. “I always like it when patients come ready with questions and concerns.”
Before heading out the door to see the eye doc, use this checklist to help you take on a more active role in your eye health.
Step #1: Don’t Forget Your Glasses!
Or your contact lenses. This is especially important if you’re seeing a new optometrist. Being able to check out your current specs helps them figure out how well your current prescription is working for you.
If you wear contacts, remember to bring along the box, too. “It’s really helpful to know which brand you’ve been using and what strength prescription you’re accustomed to,” says Dr. Foster.
And don’t forget your shades: It's possible that your eyes will be dilated as part of your complete eye checkup, so going out into the bright sunshine afterward could be uncomfortable or leave you with temporary blurred vision.
Step #2: Make History
For the best exam results today, be ready to look back at your past.
“It’s really important to share the main points of your medical history,” says Dr. Foster. “Let us know about your health in general and if you’ve been having any issues with your eyes.”
Before your visit, you might want to jot down anything important, like more frequent headaches, which can sometimes be related to a change in the health of your eyes, or new neck pain, which can be a sign of eyestrain that’s related to your desk job or screen use.
And don’t overlook ongoing conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or allergies. If your health has changed recently, your eye doctor will want to stay in the loop.
“It can all have an impact on your vision health,” he says.
Step #3: List All Your Medications
When you see this question on the pre-exam paperwork, don’t skip over it.
Your eye doc isn’t trying to be nosy, says Dr. Foster. They’re looking for medicines that have known side effects that can cause blurred vision or dry eyes, for example. Plus, the list can help your doctor spot any health issues that could potentially lead to a vision problem.
Don’t leave anything out. It’s also good to let your optometrist know about the vitamins, supplements, and over-the-counter medicines (such as a pain reliever) that you take frequently.
Step #4: Know Your Doctor
Be sure to have the name and contact info for your primary care doctor handy, too. The same goes for any specialists you may see regularly.
Having this information in your file will help your eye doctor know whom to reach out to if they spot something during the eye checkup that might impact your overall health.
Remember, eye doctors have one of the best views of your blood vessels, nerves, and tissues that can tip them off to potential problems with your thyroid, cholesterol, immune system, and more.
When treating patients who have diabetes or autoimmune disorders, Dr. Foster says optometrists frequently work closely with other doctors and specialists to coordinate treatment plans and share important updates about your eye health and vision changes.
Step #5: Come with Questions
Anything bugging you about your vision? Not sure about your contact lens care routine?
From dry eyes to weird floaters to recurring eye twitches, there may be lots of things you’re wondering about. Now is the perfect time to ask.
“I’d rather have my patients drill me with their eye questions than rely on the internet for answers,” says Dr. Foster.
So you won’t forget, jot down your questions beforehand in a notebook or on your smartphone. Prioritize them so you and your eye doctor can spend the most time focusing on your top concerns.
Step #6: Give the Doc a Recap
Before you leave the exam chair, quickly repeat any instructions or important information the eye doctor has asked you to follow. That way they’ll know if you’ve correctly understood their recommendations.
“It’s a great way to make sure everyone’s on the same page,” says Dr. Foster.
If you have a new diagnosis for an eye condition or are getting a new lens prescription, be sure to find out if—and when—you should check in to let them know that the new lenses or treatment regimen are or aren’t working.