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Value of Routine Eye Examinations in Asymptomatic Patients

Irving, Elizabeth L.; Harris, Joel D.; Machan, Carolyn M.; Robinson, Barbara E.; Hrynchak, Patricia K.; Leat, Susan J.; Lillakas, Linda

doi: 10.1097/OPX.0000000000000863
Feature Article-Public Access
Press Release

Purpose: To determine if routine eye examinations in asymptomatic patients result in spectacle prescription change, new critical diagnosis, or new management of existing conditions. We also investigate whether age and time between assessments (assessment interval) impact detection rates.

Methods: The Waterloo Eye Study (WatES) database was created from a retrospective file review of 6397 patients seen at the University of Waterloo Optometry Clinic. Significant changes since the previous assessment (significant change) were defined as a change in spectacle prescription, presence of a new critical diagnosis, or a new management. Significant change, assessment interval, and age were extracted from the database for all asymptomatic patients presenting for a routine eye examination. The frequency of patients with significant change and the median assessment interval were determined for different age groups.

Results: Of 2656 asymptomatic patients, 1078 (41%) patients had spectacle prescription changes, 434 (16%) patients had new critical diagnoses, 809 (31%) patients had new managements, and 1535 (58%) patients had at least one of these (significant change). Median assessment intervals were 2.9 and 2.8 years for age groups 40 to <65 years and 20 to <40 years, respectively, approximately 1.5 years for patients 7 to <20, and between 1 and 1.5 years for patients <7 or >64. Controlling for assessment interval and sex, increasing age was associated with having a significant change (OR = 1.03, 95% CI 1.029–1.037). Similarly, controlling for age and sex, increased assessment interval was associated with having a significant change (OR = 1.06, 95% CI 1.02–1.11).

Conclusions: In asymptomatic patients, comprehensive routine optometric eye examinations detect a significant number of new eye conditions and/or result in management changes. The number detected increases with age and assessment interval.





School of Optometry and Vision Science, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada (all authors).

Elizabeth L. Irving University of Waterloo School of Optometry and Vision Science 200 University Avenue West Waterloo, ON, N2L 3G1 Canada e-mail:

© 2016 American Academy of Optometry