Why annual exams are essential for all

How important are healthy eyes and good vision to your way of life? Our eyes are a precious gift, yet we often take them for granted until we squint or strain to see. Since many eye and vision problems may initially have no signs or symptoms, the American Optometric Association recommends routine, comprehensive exams to evaluate how clearly each eye is functioning and overall eye health. 

“My personal mantra is: ‘You don’t know until you look,’ and early detection is paramount,” says Dr. Jesse Camen, an optometrist and head of Camen Eye Care’s Total Performance Vision Center at Be Seen Optics in La Jolla. “For this reason, I recommend annual comprehensive eye exams, regardless of age, overall health, and vision classification. People who have preexisting comorbidities or are at high-risk levels for eye diseases may need to be seen multiple times per year.”

Eye health is not measured by how well we see, and eye exams are not solely about vision. Optometrists look for a myriad of other conditions as evidence of systemic disease such as diabetes, hypertension, thyroid disorders, imbalances to the binocular vision system, infection, inflammation, injury, and even disorders stemming from electronic device usage. 

“In my more than fifteen years as an optometrist, some of the scariest and most threatening conditions I have encountered have been very silent when it came to symptoms, especially in the early stages,” Dr. Camen says. “It isn’t until things have progressed beyond a certain point that the patient has any inkling that something might be amiss. Unfortunately, by then they may have already suffered irreparable functional and visual impairment due to possible malignancies, glaucomatous nerve loss, diabetic retinopathy, and more.”

Little is required of the patient during a routine eye exam. After the complete medical history is reviewed, the optometrist performs a series of preliminary tests to determine a quick, but effective, neurological assessment. The patient’s refractive (nearsighted, far-sighted, or astigmatic) status and appropriateness of glasses or contact lens correction is determined. 

Once a prescription for vision correction is decided upon, the optometrist performs a thorough series of tests to determine the health of the eyes. “I look at both the anterior and interior structures of the eye to identify potential diseases and disorders,” Dr. Camen says. She does not use the often-feared air puff test, but rather a drop-free and much more patient-friendly method to measure intraocular pressure. “I also highly recommend retinal imaging to provide a detailed, photo-documented history of the patient’s eye health in the years ahead.”


Optometrists can be thought of as the “primary care physicians” of the eyes. They are specifically trained, licensed, and able to prescribe medications to treat most known ocular diseases such as glaucoma, dry eye, allergies, injuries, as well as to monitor diabetic eye disease and age-related macular degeneration. When conditions such as retinal tears or tumors are detected, or when a detachment repair, cataract extraction, or intraocular injection is required, the optometrist will refer the patient to a specialist within the ophthalmologic community. 

Many optometrists specialize in specific areas. Dr. Camen recently added Sports and Performance Optometry to her practice and created Camen Eye Care’s Total Performance Vision Center. “Whether you’d like to target your athletic ability or performance at school, work, or life in general, the tools and technologies of the optometric profession can lead to definite and measurable gains,” Dr. Camen explains. “Myopia management, the role of nutrition in ocular disease, and preserving one’s vision are also important to me and my practice.”

For more information or to schedule an eye exam, visit beseenoptics.com