People who wear glasses or contact lenses typically have eye examinations every one to two years. However, having an eye exam is an important part of caring for the eyes even if glasses or contact lenses are not needed. An eye exam can help the doctor identify the early signs of eye diseases, making it more likely that a patient will have a good outcome. These examinations also make it possible to determine if a patient needs vision correction. Getting the right lenses can reduce eyestrain and make it safer for people to drive, use the computer, and perform other tasks.
Q: What happens during a standard eye exam?
A: The standard eye exam consists of several different parts designed to identify vision problems and assess the health of the eyes. The parts of a standard eye exam include the interview and medical history, visual acuity test, external examination, eye alignment test, pupil response test, refraction, slit lamp exam of the anterior eye, evaluation of eye pressure, and examination of the posterior eye.
Q: What does the doctor ask during the interview and medical history portion of the exam?
A: During the interview portion of the exam, the doctor asks questions to determine risk for specific eye diseases. The questions asked also pertain to the patient’s medical history and family medical history. The doctor may ask questions related to age, health problems, medications, allergies, and family history of diabetes, hypertension, and other diseases that increase the risk for vision problems.
Q: What happens during the visual acuity test?
A: During this test, a doctor or assistant tests visual acuity at distances of 16 inches and 20 feet. The patient covers one eye and tries to read letters or numbers on a chart. Then the patient covers the other eye and does the same thing. The doctor records a visual acuity number for both eyes, as it possible to see better with one eye than the other.
Q: What is the purpose of the external examination?
A: The external examination helps the eye doctor identify problems that need to be investigated during other parts of the exam. During the external examination, the doctor looks at the eyelids, the base of the eyelashes, the face, and the whites of the eyes. If the eye doctor finds a possible medical problem, the patient may be referred to another medical specialist.
Q: What is the eye alignment test and why is it needed?
A: During the eye alignment test, the doctor asks the patient to cover and uncover the eyes while focusing on an object. Observing how much the eyes move when they are uncovered helps the doctor determine how well the eyes work together.
Q: What happens during the pupil response test?
A: During the pupil response test, the doctor looks closely at the pupils to make sure they are the same shape and size. Different pupil sizes are not normal, so it is important to identify this problem. The doctor also observes the pupils’ response to light by shining a bright beam of light into each eye.
Q: What is refraction?
A: Refraction is an important part of the eye exam that helps determine what prescription someone needs for glasses. During this part of the exam, the eyes are measured with a screening instrument. Then the doctor shows the patient a series of lens choices and asks the patient to choose with ones are the clearest.
Q: What is the slit lamp exam?
A: The slit lamp exam is not as scary as it sounds. During this portion of the eye exam, the doctor uses a slit lamp to look at the surface of the eyes. This piece of equipment got its name from the way it narrows its beam of light into a thin slit. In some cases, the doctor can use this lamp to make sure a patient’s eyes are suitable for wearing contact lenses.
Q: Why is the eye pressure test necessary?
A: The eye pressure test helps doctors test for glaucoma, which is an abnormal buildup of pressure in the eye. During this test, the doctor uses a special device to measure eye pressure. One of the devices directs a puff of air at the cornea, while the other measures the pressure of the eye by placing a small device against the cornea. If the second device is used, the doctor applies a special anesthetic eye drop to prevent discomfort.
Q: What happens during the examination of the posterior eye?
A: Examining the posterior eye allows the doctor to check the retina and optic nerve. This is necessary to rule out diabetic retinopathy and other conditions that may increase the risk of blindness. During this examination, the doctor applies dilating eye drops to the eye. Once the eye drops take effect, the doctor examines the optic nerve and retina.
Q: When is an eye exam necessary?
A: Someone with a diagnosed vision problem should get regular eye exams. An eye exam is also necessary if someone has the signs or symptoms of a problem with the eyes. These signs and symptoms include frequent blinking, squinting, rubbing of the eyes, changes in vision, and headaches. People who wear contacts should get an eye exam every year. People over the age of 65 should get an eye exam every year or two, as vision changes are more likely to develop with age.
Q: Why are eye exams so important?
A: Eye exams are important because they help identify vision problems and problems with the structure and function of the eyes. An eye exam can also help identify problems with blood flow to the eyes, which may be a sign of diabetes or hypertension. An eye exam is an important part of regular medical care.
The following resources explain more about what happens during an eye exam:
- How Often Should I Have My Eyes Checked?: This resource explains when people in different age groups should get their eyes examined.
- When Should an Adult’s Eyes Be Examined?: This article discusses the importance of adult eye exams and explains when they should be performed.
- The Importance of Eye Exams: This article explains why an eye exam is so important for maintaining good eye health.
- What to Expect During an Adult Eye Exam: This resource explains the different parts of a standard eye examination.
- Your Child’s Eye Examination: This article is geared toward parents, as it explains what happens during a pediatric eye exam.
- Visual Acuity Test: This resource explains what happens during the visual acuity test.
- Five Common Glaucoma Tests: This resource explains what happens during the air pressure test and four other glaucoma tests.
- Refraction Test: This page explains the purpose of the refraction tests and discusses how it is done.
- Routine Eye Exams: This page contains information about the importance of getting regular eye exams.
- Examination of the Eye: This technical resource contains a picture of an eye chart and explains the process of an eye exam in detail.