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Screening for Cataracts

by Rick Alan

The purpose of screening is early diagnosis and treatment. Screening tests are usually administered to people without current symptoms, but who may be at high risk for certain diseases or conditions.

Screening Tests

A comprehensive eye examination screens for cataracts. This examination should include:

  • Visual acuity test - an eye chart test that measures how well you see at various distances
  • Slit lamp exam - Examination of the eye using a specialized microscope that magnifies the eye.
  • Tonometry - a standard test to measure fluid pressure inside the eye; increased pressure may be a sign of glaucoma
  • Dilated eye exam - The doctor gives you special eye drops to widen your pupil, which allows better examination of the lens and the structures of the back of the eye.

Screening Guidelines

Ask your doctor for guidelines specific to your individual situation. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends the following general screening guidelines for healthy adults with no risk factors for eye disease:

  • At least once between age 20 and 29
  • At least twice between age 30 and 39
  • Age 40-64: every 2 to 4 years
  • Age 65 and older: every 1 to 2 years

You should be screened more often, or as directed by your doctor, if you:

  • Have risk factors for cataracts, glaucoma or other eye diseases
  • Have a personal or family history of eye disease
  • Have had a serious eye injury in the past
  • Had eye surgery in the past
  • Are taking a corticosteroid medication
  • Have diabetes, high blood pressure, or other chronic illness

Cautionary Note: If you currently have eye symptoms, you should call your provider immediately for an evaluation. In case of an emergency, call for an ambulance immediately.


American Academy of Ophthalmology

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research

The Merck Manual of Medical Information, 17th edition. Simon and Schuster, Inc;2000.

National Eye Institute

Last reviewed October 2004 by Kimberly Rask, MD, PhD

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