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What to Expect at Your Next Comprehensive Eye Exam

A comprehensive eye exam will involve a series of tests that are used to evaluate your vision and check for eye diseases with each test evaluating a different aspect of your eye or vision health.

You may experience having a bright light shined at your eyes, be asked to look through a variety of lenses, and will have your eyes examined with a variety of instruments throughout the course of your eye exam.

Why Do I Need an Eye Exam?

An eye exam is a crucial part of maintaining your eye and vision health. Eye exams also help your eye doctor detect eye problems early when they can be more easily treated. By having your eyes regularly examined by an eye care professional, this allows them to correct or adapt to your vision changes and also allows them to provide you with the tools and tips you need to properly care for your eyes.

How Often Should I Get My Eyes Examined?

Your age, risk of developing eye problems, and medical history all play a role in determining how often you should have your eyes examined.


Kids should have eye exams as follows:
  • Their first eye exam at six months
  • A second eye exam at three years
  • Third eye exam before kindergarten
  • Annually thereafter


Healthy adults should have an eye exam every one to two years unless otherwise directed by a doctor.


Eye health changes as you age. Seniors over the age of 65 should have annual eye exams unless directed otherwise by a doctor.

Tips for Preparing for Your Eye Exam

Bring your contacts and glasses – If you currently wear contact lenses or glasses, bring them to your appointment. This will give your eye doctor the opportunity to make sure your prescription is the best one for your vision needs.

Other precautions to take – In case your eyes are dilated as part of your eye exam, make sure you bring sunglasses to wear after the exam. Dilation can cause you to be sensitive to daylight and bright lights or cause blurred vision. You may also want to consider having a friend or family member drive you home.

What to Expect Before, During, and After the Exam

Before Your Exam

If you are having your first eye exam or are visiting a new eye doctor, you can expect to answer a variety of questions about your vision history. By answering these questions accurately, you can help your eye doctor understand your vision problems and your level of risk for eye disease. You should have the information prepared to answer questions such as:
  • Are you currently having any eye problems?
  • Have you had any problems with your eyes in the past?
  • Have you ever had eye surgery?
  • Do you wear glasses or contacts now? If so, are you satisfied with the prescription?
  • Have you had any health problems in recent years?
  • Are you currently taking any medications?
  • Do you have any allergies to foods, medications, etc.?
  • Is there a family history of eye problems, such as macular degeneration or glaucoma?
  • Is there a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or other health problems that affect the body as a whole?

During Your Exam

During your eye exam, you can expect the exam to begin with a discussion about your medical history and any vision problems you are currently experiencing. After this is complete, your eye doctor will measure your visual acuity to check and see if glasses or contact are necessary to improve your vision.

Numbing drops will be administered in your eyes, and your eye pressure will be measured. You will then likely have your eyes dilated with eye drops to make it easier for your eye doctor to examine the inside of your eye using several lights to examine the front and inside of each eye.

There are several tests that may be performed during your eye exam that is designed to evaluate your vision and examine the function and appearance of all parts of your eyes.

After Your Exam

Once the exam is complete, you will discuss the result of the vision assessment, your risk of eye disease, or other eye problems, and you will also learn more about preventative measures you can take to protect your vision.

Common Types of Eye Exam Tests

During the course of your eye exam, there are a variety of tests your eye doctor may perform, including:

Visual acuity test

This test is used to measure how clearly you see. The eye doctor will ask you to identify different letters of the alphabet printed on a chart known as a Snellen chart or screen that is positioned a certain distance away. On this chart, the lines of letters get smaller as you go down the chart.

Both of your eyes will be tested separately, and you may also have your near vision tested, using a card similar to the chart that is held and read t a reading distance.

Eye muscle test

For this test, your eye doctor will evaluate the muscles that control your eye movement. They will watch your eye as you use your eyes to follow a moving object such as a small light or pen.

This test allows the eye doctor to look for signs of poor control, poor coordination, and muscle weakness.

Refraction assessment

As light waves pass through your cornea and lens, they are bent, but if you have a refractive error, the light rays won’t focus perfectly on the back of your eye. If you have a refractive error, your vision can be corrected with various methods such as contact lenses, glasses, or refractive surgery.

By assessing your refractive error, your eye doctor can determine the best lens prescription to give you the most comfortable, sharpest vision. This assessment can also be used to determine that you don’t need corrective lenses.

To estimate your prescription your eye doctor may use a computerized refractor, or they will use a technique known as retinoscopy. This technique is where the eye doctor shines a light into your eye, measuring the refractive area by assessing the movement of light that is reflected by your retina through your pupil.

This refraction assessment will be fine-tuned by your eye doctor. They will have you look through a mask-like device equipped with a phoropter, wheels of different lenses. Your eye doctor will adjust the lenses and have your judge the combination to determine which lenses give you’re the sharpest vision.

Visual field test

The visual field is the full extent that you can see to the sides without moving your eyes to look. With a visual field test, your eye doctor can determine whether you have any difficulty seeing in any areas in your total field of vision. Visual field tests include:
  • Confrontation exam. This is where the eye doctor sits directly in front of you, asking you to over one eye. They will have you look straight ahead and tell them when you see their hand move into view.
  • Automated perimetry. You will look at a screen with blinking lights on it. Your eye doctor will have you press a button every time you see a blink.

With the responses to one or more of these tests, your eye doctor will be able to determine the fullness of your field of vision. If they find certain areas where you were unable to see, they can note your pattern of visual field loss to help them diagnose your specific eye condition.

Retinal examination

A retinal examination will allow your doctor to evaluate the back of your eye. This includes the retina, the optic disk, and the underlying layer of blood vessels that nourish the retina. For this examination, your eye doctor will need to use eye drops to dilate your pupils. This allows them to see the structure and keeps your pupil from getting smaller when they shine a light into the eye.

Once the eye drops have had time to work, the eye doctor will use one or more of these techniques for viewing the back of your eye:
  • Direct exam. Using an ophthalmoscope, your eye doctor will shine a beam of light through your pupil to view the back of the eye. This exam may not require eye drops.
  • Indirect exam. This exam may require you to lie down, recline in your chair, or sit up. Using a condensing lens and a bright light mounted on their forehead, your eye doctor will examine your retina and the other structures inside of your eye in greater detail as well as three dimensions.

Glaucoma Screening

Tonometry measures the intraocular pressure or the fluid pressure inside your eye. This test helps your eye doctor determine if you have glaucoma. This is a disease that causes damage to your optic nerve.
Intraocular pressure can be measured in various ways, including:
  • Noncontact tonometry. This is where your eye doctor used a puff of air to estimate the pressure in your eye. You will simply feel a pulse of air on your eye, which, while painless, can be startling.
  • Applanation tonometry. This technique will measure the amount of force required to temporarily flatten a part of your cornea. Your eye doctor will administer eye drops with fluorescein as well as eyedrops containing an anesthetic. Using a slit lamp, your doctor will move the tonometer to touch your cornea, determining the eye pressure. Your eye is numbed, and you will feel no pain during the test.

If your eye doctor finds that your eye pressure is higher than normal or if your optic nerve looks unusual, they may use a pachymeter. This instrument measures the thickness of the cornea using sound waves. A more common method is to administer an anesthetic drop to the eye and place a small prove in contact with the front surface of your eye to measure corneal thickness. This only takes seconds to complete.

Depending on your age, risk of eye disease, and medical history, you may require more specialized testing.

Ready for Your Next Eye Exam? Contact Dittman Eyecare

At Dittman Eyecare, we are dedicated to providing quality care to our patients to help preserve their vision health. Contact us today to schedule your next eye exam!

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