GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — Eye exams. Something easy to overlook if we don’t feel our vision has changed.

But the importance of them goes well beyond just making sure your vision isn’t blurry.

"They help us to identify whether any diseases are present," says HealthPartners Ophthalmologist Jonathan Pribila. "A lot of conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma can present initially with no significant vision changes."

In a recent survey of U.S. adults, more than half declared sight the most valuable of the five senses. 

So this week, Real Men Wear Gowns looked at the best ways for us to keep seeing well into the future.

An eye exam generally takes between 30 minutes to an hour and should be done more frequently as we age:

  • Every three years between 20 and 40
  • Every two years between ages 40 and 60
  • Annually after the age of 60

Pribila says the eye is unique because it is one of the only places in the body where you can see both nerves and blood vessels. As a result, it allows doctors to tell a lot about a patient’s overall health.

"We can tell if diabetes is present or whether high blood pressure is present."

Those conditions can’t be helped with eye protection, but there are simple ways to protect the eye itself, like sunglasses.

"Sun exposure and UV exposure can cause progression of cataracts," Pribila says. "It can also cause progression of macular degeneration."

Technology is also working against our eyes. Hand-held devices contribute to eye strain, fatigue and dryness because we tend to blink less when looking at our smartphones.

"As a result, the surface of our eye dries out and that can cause intermittent pain and blurry vision," Pribila says.

One good rule to remember when using your handheld devices, Pribila says, is the rule of 20. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away.