That's Eligible?! A closer look at vision and cognitive testing

Maintaining eye health is just as important as all other aspects of your physical health. For both adults and children, it can affect many aspects of their lives such as work, school and even social activities.

But not all problems are solely vision-related. In fact, it may have to do with cognitive issues. Why are we bringing this up? Many vision tests may be FSA-eligible, helping you save some serious money. Make sure you check with your provider to make sure it counts as a qualified medical expense.

What's the difference?

In a nutshell, vision is how your eyes physically process the light rays that enter your eye into signals. Cognition on the other hand, has to do with how our brains process that information.

How vision works is our eyes receive light rays from the pupils, which activates receptor cells in our retina. It in turn creates signals to the optic nerve then sent to the brain - if you want to get technical, the visual cortex in the occipital lobe.

Cognition on the other hand, involves a more complex process - what happens once those signals reach your brain. Think of it is as how your brain interprets information that your eye receives. For example, you need to use your eyes to read, but the meaning of those words comes from your cognitive skills, not your vision.

Breaking down visual and cognition issues

Vision problems are ones that physically affect the eye. For example, farsightedness or nearsightedness happens when the cornea or lens isn't properly shaped or has the right size. As a result, your eye can't receive light signals as it normally does meaning objects will appear blurry when you see items far away or up close.

When you have vision, it could affect your quality of life. If you find you have to squint or strain your eyes to focus, it could lead to headaches. On a more serious note, if you have a vision problem and are doing certain tasks - like driving or operating specialized machinery - then it could impact your safety and those around you.

Cognitive problems are when your brain is unable to process functions and signals normally. For example, dyslexia is a type of learning disorder which can mean someone has difficulty reading. It could be from issues identifying speech sounds and how it relates to letters and words. This has nothing to do with whether someone has vision issues.

Cognitive issues can also have wide ranging consequences. Think about it - if issues like dyslexia continue to go undiagnosed, how difficult will it be for your child to go through school? If you're an adult that relies heavily on your reading skills to make a living, what would happen if you struggle with it on a continual basis?

What kinds of tests should I take?

We're not experts, of course, but medical professionals usually recommend that adults have a comprehensive vision exam every 1-2 years, depending on things such as risk factors, your age and if you're already wearing corrective lenses.

Children typically should have their eyes tested every two years, though before he or she goes to school, a medical professional may recommend a vision screening test to see if everything's on the up and up.

And if your insurance doesn't necessarily cover the testing, there's a chance your FSA can help offset the costs. Check with your provider to see what's eligible, and how these tests might help lead to better vision down the line.

Don't waste time hunting for ways to spend your tax-free funds. In That's Eligible?!, we'll bring you these updates every Monday, so you don't have to. And for all things flex spending, be sure to check out the rest of our Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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