What happens at an eye exam?
Eye doctors perform eye exams to help assess the health of your eye and screen for eye conditions. Eye doctors usually conduct two main types of eye exams: routine eye exams and comprehensive eye exams.
Routine eye exams are performed annually or every other year. Routine eye exams are meant to check for vision problems and assess your eyesight. Your eye doctor will ask about your medical history, family history (relating to eye conditions), and any eye problems you may be experiencing. The doctor will perform tests to assess general eye health and check for astigmatism, nearsightedness (myopia), or farsightedness (hyperopia)/ age-related farsightedness (presbyopia). During a routine eye exam, your doctor will determine whether you may need eyeglasses and contact lenses and develop a prescription that works for you. Some tests performed during a routine eye exam include:
- Visual acuity tests: Tests that determine how well you see the details of a letter or figure at different distances.
- Visual field test: This test helps doctors determine where the limit of sight is in the corner of your eye.
- Refraction tests: To determine whether you may need glasses or contact lenses, eye doctors will use a phoropter to test the refractive error of each eye. A phoropter is a medical device that looks like a large pair of goggles. The eye doctor will ask you to look through the phoropter at a series of letters or images and will adjust the phoropter's lenses until arriving at a prescription that works for you.
- Eye movement tests: These simple tests can often be performed by tracking the eye's movement as it follows an object in the line of sight. This helps doctors check the strength of your ocular muscles.
An eye doctor will perform a comprehensive eye exam to assess eye health and visual acuity and screen for eye conditions and diseases. The eye doctor will run a routine eye exam alongside more specific tests tailored to your vision and eye needs. These are usually longer eye exams that are used to check for signs of eye disease or serious eye problems. Tests that may be performed during a comprehensive eye exam include:
- Tonometry: Tonometry is a test that helps check for glaucoma by measuring eye pressure - the pressure of fluid in the eye.
- Slit-lamp tests: Slit-lamp (or biomicroscope) tests check for abnormalities in the cornea, iris, and lens of the eye. The doctor will use a special type of light (slit-lamp) and a low-powered microscope to look at the surface of your eye. This painless examination can help catch macular degeneration, detached retinas, and cataracts.
Eye exams play a key role in eye health and general healthcare. Not only do eye exams help doctors assess your quality of vision, but they also help determine whether you need eyeglasses or other forms of eye care. Comprehensive eye exams are crucial for catching serious eye conditions.