Comprehensive eye exams by a doctor of optometry are an important part of caring for your eyes, vision, and overall health.
An eye exam involves a series of tests to evaluate your vision and check for eye diseases. Your eye doctor is likely to use various instruments, shine bright lights at your eyes and request that you look through an array of lenses. Each test during an eye exam evaluates a different aspect of your vision or eye health.
When to have an eye exam
Several factors can determine how frequently you need an eye exam, including your age, health and risk of developing eye problems. General guidelines are as follows:
Children 3 years and younger
Your child’s paediatrician will likely check your child’s eyes for healthy eye development and look for the most common childhood eye problems — lazy eye, cross-eyes or misaligned eyes. A more comprehensive eye exam between the ages of 3 and 5 will look for problems with vision and eye alignment.
School-age children and adolescents
Has your child’s vision been checked before he or she enters kindergarten? Your child’s doctor can recommend how frequent eye exams should be after that.
In general, if you are healthy and you have no symptoms of vision problems, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends having a complete eye exam at age 40, when some vision changes and eye diseases are likely to start. Based on the results of your screening, your eye doctor can recommend how often you should have future eye exams.
If you’re 60 or older, have your eyes checked every year or two.
Have your eyes checked more often if you:
- Wear glasses or contact lenses
- Have a family history of eye disease or loss of vision
- Have a chronic disease that puts you at greater risk of eye disease, such as diabetes
- Take medications that have serious eye side effects
What you can expect
Before the exam
If you’re seeing a new eye doctor or if you’re having your first eye exam, expect questions about your vision and general health history. Your answers help your eye doctor understand your risk of eye disease and vision problems. Questions might include:
- Are you having eye problems now?
- Have you had eye problems in the past?
- Do you wear glasses or contacts? If so, are you satisfied with them?
- What health problems have you had in recent years?
- Were you born prematurely?
- What medications do you take?
- Do you have allergies to medications, food or other substances?
- Have you had eye surgery?
- Does anyone in your family have eye problems, such as macular degeneration, glaucoma or retinal detachments?
- Do you or does anyone in your family have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or any other health problems that can affect the whole body?
During the exam
A clinical assistant or technician might do part of the examination, such as taking your medical history and giving the initial eye test. An eye exam usually involves these steps:
- Measurement of your visual acuity to see if you need glasses or contact lenses to improve your vision.
- Measurement of your eye pressure. You’ll be given a numbing drop in your eyes. To make it easier for your doctor to examine the inside of your eye, he or she will likely give you eyedrops to dilate your eyes.
- Evaluation of the health of your eyes. After the dilating drops take effect, your eye doctor might use several lights or imaging to evaluate the front of the eye and the inside of each eye.
Your doctor might use several tests to check your vision and the appearance and function of all parts of your eyes.
After the exam
At the end of your eye exam, you and your doctor will discuss the results of all testing, including an assessment of your vision, your risk of eye disease and preventive measures you can take to protect your eyesight.