What Should I Expect from an Eye Exam?

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt
Anatomy of the human eye.
Anatomy of the human eye.

Like any other medical exam, an eye exam consists of several procedures. Several tests can be conducted on the patient's eyes to determine if they are healthy or not. In many cases, a basic set of routine tests will be conducted. Lengthier diagnostic tests may be necessary for patients with a history of eye problems.

Cover tests are the most common tests given by vision specialists. Often the first test given during the eye exam, it involves simply staring at a chart while reading off the letters on the chart. One eye is covered during the first part of the test while the other eye is covered during the second half.

An optometrist can determine if sudden vision loss can be attributed to damage to the structures of the eye.
An optometrist can determine if sudden vision loss can be attributed to damage to the structures of the eye.

Retinoscopies are another basic exam a vision specialist may use to determine a person's eye care needs. After dimming the lights, the doctor usually examines the patient's eye with a light as the patient stares at the letter chart. As the physician looks into the patient's eye, he or she places a machine in front of the patient and flips various lenses in front of the patient's eyes.

A typical eye exam requires the patient to read letters off of a chart.
A typical eye exam requires the patient to read letters off of a chart.

The retinoscopy test can determine an approximate value for the patient's vision prescription, if necessary, based on the way the light reflects from the patient's eyes. For a complete prescription, an eye care provider will usually conduct a refraction exam. During this procedure, another machine called a phoropter will be placed in front of the patient's eyes. The patient will be asked to determine which of two lenses in a long series of choices appears clearer.

An eye exam should be performed annually.
An eye exam should be performed annually.

Refraction tests can tell whether a person is nearsighted, farsighted, or has astigmatism or presbyopia, as well as at what level these conditions are present. The physician may further determine a patient's prescription with an aberrometer or autorefractor. These tests involve placing the patient's chin upon a machine and shining a light into his or her eyes to locate additional vision needs.

An eye exam might be include an evaluation for laser surgery.
An eye exam might be include an evaluation for laser surgery.

Dozens of other tests are possible during an eye exam, depending on the patient's personal eye treatment and needs. These might include evaluations for contact lenses, laser surgery, or other individual requirements. Pediatric eye exams may include further tests as well. Depending upon which tests are done, it may also be necessary for the doctor to dilate the patient's pupils using special eyedrops. Therefore, it may be helpful to bring someone along who can drive you home after the exam.

Experts advise that people age 62 and older have an annual vision screening.
Experts advise that people age 62 and older have an annual vision screening.

A typical eye exam last between half an hour to a full hour. This depends on the patient's needs and the number of patients the eye care specialist is treating. Arriving fifteen minutes early can be helpful, particularly when their is paperwork such as new patient forms to complete. Medical insurance information, a list of prescriptions and other medications, and a patient medical history may all be required prior to the eye exam.

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, Sara has a Master’s Degree in English, which she puts to use writing for and several magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She has published her own novella, and has other literary projects currently in progress. Sara’s varied interests have also led her to teach children in Spain, tutor college students, run CPR and first aid classes, and organize student retreats.

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, Sara has a Master’s Degree in English, which she puts to use writing for and several magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She has published her own novella, and has other literary projects currently in progress. Sara’s varied interests have also led her to teach children in Spain, tutor college students, run CPR and first aid classes, and organize student retreats.

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Discussion Comments

anon79903

I am of 52/ male years. I am feeling problem is distant vision. I am also using +2.00 glasses for near vision. kindly update me what should I do in my eye care. what tests are necessary for my eye care.

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    • Anatomy of the human eye.
      Anatomy of the human eye.
    • An optometrist can determine if sudden vision loss can be attributed to damage to the structures of the eye.
      By: daniel rajszczak
      An optometrist can determine if sudden vision loss can be attributed to damage to the structures of the eye.
    • A typical eye exam requires the patient to read letters off of a chart.
      By: robert
      A typical eye exam requires the patient to read letters off of a chart.
    • An eye exam should be performed annually.
      By: pio3
      An eye exam should be performed annually.
    • An eye exam might be include an evaluation for laser surgery.
      By: Monkey Business
      An eye exam might be include an evaluation for laser surgery.
    • Experts advise that people age 62 and older have an annual vision screening.
      By: JPC-PROD
      Experts advise that people age 62 and older have an annual vision screening.
    • Routine eye exams are painless and can help detect vision or eye problems early.
      By: RTimages
      Routine eye exams are painless and can help detect vision or eye problems early.