Prioritizing eye health is important for total body health, too.

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For those of us who are able to see, vision is one of our most leaned-on senses. However, your eye health might not be something you think about often if you don't have glasses or contacts. Even if you don't have known vision impairments, there are several reasons why it's important to prioritize your eye health, as our vision has implications for the health of our body as a whole. Here, we dive into what eye health is and reasons to visit an optometrist even if you don't wear glasses. 

Portrait of a woman at an eye doctor appointment
Credit: Getty Images / PeopleImages

Why Is Eye Health Important? 

We take in a lot of information about the world through our vision, so customized eye health is important to keep our bodies and minds at their best. Eye diseases are very common, with about 11 million Americans over age 12 needing vision correction. That said, they can often go unnoticed for a long time. We have likely all heard the stories of someone who thought they had perfect vision … until they tried their first pair of glasses and realized what they were missing. 

Beyond altered vision (often called refractive errors), there are several other common eye diseases where early treatment is critical in preventing permanent vision loss or blindness. Some of these common diseases include cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and amblyopia. Only an eye doctor can identify eye diseases, even if there aren't any symptoms, through a comprehensive dilated eye exam. For this reason, regularly seeing your optometrist is crucial for eye health. 

5 Reasons to Go to The Eye Doctor Even If You Don't Wear Glasses

Even if you don't use a vision aid like glasses, there are several important reasons why you should make a visit to your eye doctor. 

1. You have family history of dementia

Our eyes give our brain a lot of information about what's around us, so their relationship is strong. Recent research found that eye health might also be an early indicator of dementia and cognitive decline. The British Journal of Ophthalmology followed more than 12,000 adults ages 55 to 73 for 11 years to see if there was an association between systemic diseases (including diabetes, heart disease and depression), eye disease and dementia risk. They found that those who had both a systemic condition along with age-related macular degeneration had the highest risk of dementia. Compared to those who did not have any eye disease, those who had age-related macular degeneration had a 26% increased risk, those with cataracts had an 11% increased risk and those with diabetes-related eye disease had a 61% increased risk. 

While this was one of the largest-scale studies on this topic, the relationship between eye health and dementia remains unclear. Eye diseases often are related to common systemic or chronic conditions. Also, vision impairments might be one of the first manifestations of Alzheimer's disease and dementia, so it is difficult to identify if the relationship is causal. However, early identification can help prevent eye diseases from getting worse and increasing your risk, so it's worth a preventive visit to your eye doctor, especially if dementia runs in your family. 

2. You have diabetes

One common complication that can come from diabetes is called diabetic retinopathy. This happens when the capillaries that carry blood to your retinas, the light-sensitive layer of tissue in the back of the eye, get damaged from high levels of blood glucose. In many cases, the early stages of diabetic retinopathy do not have symptoms, so you might not notice any changes. However, over time, untreated diabetic retinopathy can lead to fluid accumulation in your eyes, glaucoma and even retinal detachment. If you have any type of diabetes, get ahead of any potential complications by making yearly trips to the optometrist. 

3. You're pregnant 

There are many changes that happen to your body when you are pregnant. This can carry over to your eyes, too. The American Academy of Ophthalmology says that pregnancy-related vision changes could be attributed to fluid retention, increased blood volume, hormonal fluctuations and more. One common symptom associated with pregnancy is called dry eye. Symptoms of dry eye include a burning sensation, blurred vision, redness, a scratchy feeling or lots of tears in your eyes. While dry eye is usually temporary, there is no need to suffer through the discomfort. Your eye doctor can help you find relief through treatment like eye drops or other techniques. 

4. You use a screen all day 

Busted. We all probably spend more than the recommended amount of screen time. While there isn't a hard-and-fast rule about how much is too much, many American adults spend more than 7 hours per day using a screen … yikes. While it might be hard to avoid, especially if your job requires you to use a computer, it can unfortunately have a negative impact on your eye health. Studies have found that increased screen time can lead to dry eye, myopia (commonly known as nearsightedness) and general eye strain. If you are like the many of us who spend more time than we would care to admit looking at a screen, it could be worth a trip to the eye doctor to check in on your eye health or to see if blue light glasses are right for you.   

5. You have experienced vision changes  

If you have experienced any changes in your vision or in the way your eyes feel, it is best to schedule an optometrist appointment ASAP. Seeing an eye doctor is the best way to identify what the change might be from and if it warrants any specific course of treatment. If you have a family history of eye disease or chronic illness, regular optometrist visits are the way to go, even if your vision seems 20/20 right now. 

The Bottom Line 

Your eye health is an important part of your overall health, mental and physical. For this reason, it is worth a trip to the eye doctor even if you don't wear glasses or use any vision aids. If you have a family history of eye disease, dementia or chronic illness, regular checkups can help you stay ahead of problems before you even experience symptoms. Additionally, if you have diabetes, are pregnant or look at screens all day, it could be worth a checkup too. Talk to your eye doctor if you experience any symptoms or vision changes.