Business of Well-being

Eye Exam - Not Just Seeing Well, but Being Well

Vision benefits are strongly emerging as a way for employers to enhance wellness and disease programs. The importance of vision care is increasing as it impacts overall health, productivity and quality of life.

The Importance of an Eye Exam

Even if you don't wear glasses, regular eye exams are important as a preventative means to manage one's overall health. Eye exams not only can detect vision problems such as glaucoma, cataracts and reduced vision from nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism; comprehensive eye exams can reveal the warning signs for more serious undiagnosed problems such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

When identified early, treatment can begin before symptoms advance and complications become critical. As with any ongoing healthcare, it is advised to have an eye exam at least once per year. Vision care is important no matter what your age. Parents should take infants to an eye care professional before 6 months of age and again at 3 years in order to detect and prevent eye problems, according to the American Optometric Association.

The College of Optometrists in Vision Development estimate up to 25% of school-age children may have vision problems that can affect learning. It is crucial to have children's eyes examined because 80% of learning in a child's first 12 years comes through the eyes (American Optometric Association). As our eyes age, they become more susceptible to certain conditions, some of which can be quite serious if left untreated.

One in 6 adults over the age of 45 has some sort of vision problem, according to Harvard Medical Center. Below are some of the more common ailments affecting older adults.

  • AMD - Age-related Macular Degeneration, which occurs when part of the retina deteriorates. AMD affects the center of the vision and impacts daily activities like driving, reading and doing close work.
  • Cataracts - According to the National Eye Institute, cataracts affect about half of Americans age 65 and older. It is important to be checked for cataracts because often symptoms do not show up until later.
  • Floaters - Floaters are a cluster of cells that have separated from the clear fluid inside the eye. They can also be a sign of a more serious condition such as a detached retina.

Having your eyes examined annually may allow conditions to be discovered early, potentially saving you from vision loss and ensuring your ongoing vision health.

What to Expect at an Eye Exam

Eye exams are about a lot more than updating your eyewear prescription. During a preventive eye exam, your doctor will check all aspects of your vision, including the structure of the eyes and how well they work together. Based on the findings of the exam, your eye doctor will recommend a solution that is right for your eye health and vision needs. Eye exams are simple and painless. Examples of some of the tests you may experience are:

  • Visual Acuity - Checking for distance vision
  • Refraction - The level of farsightedness, nearsightedness or presbyopia
  • The Cover Test - How your eyes work together
  • Dilation - A close-up look at the eye's internal structures
  • Slit Lamp - Examining the health of your eyes, evaluating signs of infection or disease
  • The "Puff of Air" - A test to indicate the likelihood of glaucoma

Once the exam is complete, the doctor will provide you with a prescription so you can order the appropriate eyewear, if applicable.

Eye Health and Productivity in the Workplace

In the workplace, employees often encounter tired eyes, dry eyes and eye strain that can impact their everyday workplace tasks. Even the simplest of eye and vision problems can impact a worker's long-term health and productivity. A slight vision miscorrection can reduce productivity by 10% and accuracy by 40%, according to the American Optometric Association Study on Optometry.

In fact, the Vision Council of America estimates that every year, vision disorders cost $8 billion in lost productivity. (Vision Council of America, "Vision in Business", 7/17/07) Annual eye exam coverage is the single most important element of a wellness-based vision plan. This benefits not only employers; but employees too recognize the value of vision care. More than 75% of Americans require vision correction. (Jobson's Optical Research Vision Watch Data 2006)  

This makes vision benefits an attractive component of a comprehensive benefits package. By recognizing that vision wellness impacts workplace productivity, employers have an advantage in the challenge to operate efficiently and profitably. For companies, vision benefits are one of the smartest investments they can make. A low-cost vision program complements the benefits package and demonstrates a company's desire to promote health and wellness.

The Value of Vision Benefits

Vision plans can be a source of savings and an assurance of quality care. Networks can connect members with licensed private practice and retail-affiliated providers, offering access to optometrists and ophthalmologists to meet a variety of eye care needs. Providers are required to meet quality standards in order to participate on the network, and they are monitored regularly to ensure they are delivering the best possible care to members.

In addition, vision plans may offer member savings on eye exams, frames, lenses, contact lenses and sun wear. Making vision care affordable and accessible helps to promote eye health and wellness. Employers have options when it comes to plan designs. Plan options can be designed to meet group and budget needs. Some of the options include funded arrangements, variable co-payments and employee contribution options at competitive rates.

Adding voluntary coverage allows companies to increase the perceived value of a benefits package. An enticing benefits package is key to attracting and retaining personnel, while promoting a healthy workplace.

Vision Wellness Impacts Quality of Life

Vision affects nearly everything we do. Whether it is driving, reading or working at the computer, eyesight is essential to our everyday life. Vision problems can cause difficulty in seeing letters and numbers when reading, identifying the slope of a curb, steps or facial features and distinguishing between colors. Poor vision may affect many aspects of a person's life including work and leisure activities. Regular eye exams give your eyes the attention they need.

The benefits of preventative care may mean recognition of vision loss, detection of potential disease and preservation of your eyesight, overall health and quality of life. Barbara Berger is Senior Regional Sales Manager for EyeMed Vision Care. EyeMed Vision Care is focused on eye health and wellness solutions through comprehensive plans built on a diverse provider network.

EyeMed plans save members money on all their eye care needs through a network of thousands of private practitioners and leading optical retailers including LensCrafters?, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical SM, Target Optical? and JCPenney Optical. EyeMed's unique approach to vision benefits offers substantial savings to employers and employees. EyeMed's programs also cover comprehensive eye exams, which not only preserve eyesight but can also detect serious conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease early.

New this year, EyeMed is sponsoring a OneSightSM Vision Van, which travels the country providing free eye care and eyewear to children in need. The Van will visit 40 cities and help more than 6,000 people this year. EyeMed Vision Care is dedicated to improving quality of life through better vision.  For nearly two decades, EyeMed has provided flexible, comprehensive vision wellness plans. Serving more than 150 million members through 5,000+ clients, EyeMed is among today's leading vision care benefit providers.

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