Updated Clinical Guideline Reinforces Importance of Annual Eye Exams, Comprehensive Eye Care with Doctors of Optometry

March 8, 2023

St. Louis, Missouri – March 8, 2023— Citing the significant public and economic impact posed by an aging population, increased visual impairments and blindness in the U.S., the American Optometric Association (AOA) has issued its revised, research-based clinical practice guideline to assist doctors of optometry in providing eye and vision examinations for adults and highlight the importance of annual, in-person exams for all Americans.

“Comprehensive eye exams provide the opportunity for early detection of eye health and visual performance problems as well as the prevention of vision loss. Linked to decreased quality of life, eye and vision disorders can alter an individual’s overall physical and mental well-being – which has broad implication for the entire health care system,” said Dr. Ronald Benner, AOA President. “The updated guideline offers doctors of optometry the means to provide quality comprehensive eye exams, which directly result in a patient’s improved visual function and quality of life.”  

In 2015, a total of 1.02 million people in the U.S. were legally blind and up to 8.2 million people had reduced vision due to uncorrected refractive errors. By 2050, the number of individuals with these conditions is projected to double to approximately 2.01 million people with legal blindness, 6.95 million people with visual impairment and 16.4 million with reduced vision due to uncorrected refractive errors.

An in-person, comprehensive eye exam with a doctor of optometry is the medically recognized standard to assure precise and healthy vision, enabling the doctor to uncover and diagnose more than 270 systemic and chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, glaucoma, macular degeneration, Graves’ disease, autoimmune disorders, and cancer—some of which can be cured or slowed through early diagnosis and treatment.

Given eye health and vision problems may develop without any obvious signs or symptoms, the guideline recommends annual comprehensive eye exams “for persons 18 through 64 years of age to optimize visual function, evaluate eye changes, and provide for the early detection of sight-threatening eye and systemic health conditions.” Further stating, “Implementation of this recommendation is likely to result in earlier diagnosis of eye and vision problems, the prevention or reduction in vision loss, as well as improved health-related quality of life for this age group.”

The AOA's Clinical Practice Guidelines are recommendations for patient care which are developed through a formal process and revised to meet the National Academies' of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine - Health and Medicine Division (NASEM) evidence-based standards. They combine the best available current scientific evidence and research with expert clinical opinion to recommend appropriate steps in the diagnosis, management, and treatment of patients with various eye and vision conditions. 

To view AOA’s Second Edition of the Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guideline for the Comprehensive Adult Eye and Vision Examination, click here.


About the American Optometric Association 

The American Optometric Association (AOA) is the leading authority on and advocate for quality eye health care, representing more than 48,000 doctors of optometry, optometry students and optometric professionals. As the sole primary eye care provider in many communities across America, doctors of optometry are often a patient's first entry point into the health care system, and have extensive, ongoing training to examine, diagnose, treat, and manage disorders, diseases, and injuries that affect the eye and visual system. Through a nationwide public health initiative, AOA's Eye Deserve More campaign is fostering awareness of the importance of eye health and vision care and the overall health benefits of in-person, comprehensive eye examinations with AOA doctors of optometry for all Americans.