Routine Eye Care

Eye Exam

What is an eye exam?

An eye exam is the way an optometrist or ophthalmologist tests your vision and eye health. Your eye doctor checks to see if you need glasses or contact lenses. The doctor also tests the health of your eyes to make sure that you do not have any other eye problems.

When should I have an eye exam?

Even if you do not wear glasses you should have an eye exam regularly. The American Optometric Association recommends that you have an eye exam according to the following schedule:

Ages 18 to 40 -- every 2 to 3 years

Ages 41 to 60 -- every 2 years

Age 61 or older -- every year

If you wear contact lenses, you must have an exam at least once a year to renew your prescription. If you are at risk for certain eye problems such as glaucoma or if you have diabetes, you should see an eye doctor once a year. School-aged kids should also be tested once a year.

You should also see your eye doctor if you have:

  • blurry vision or eyestrain
  • eye pain
  • red eyes
  • blind spots
  • headaches
  • any other eye problem.

How do I prepare for an eye exam?

You don't need to do anything special before your eye exam. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, be sure to take them with you. Be prepared to answer questions about your vision and health history. Your eye doctor will want to know if you are having any vision problems. Your job has a big effect on your vision, so your doctor will want to know if you do a lot of computer work or drive a lot, for example. The doctor will also want to know if you have any general health problems and what medicines you are taking. Make a list of questions you have for the doctor and take the list with you to the exam.

What happens during an eye exam?

Your eye doctor will ask you if you are having any problems with your eyes. If you already wear glasses or contact lenses, your doctor will ask when you wear them, how long you wear them, and, for contact lenses, what solutions you use to clean them. Next, the doctor will check to see if you are near-sighted, far-sighted, have astigmatism, or need reading glasses.

  • You will read an eye chart to test your vision.
  • You will then look through a special instrument while the doctor places lenses in front of your eyes to determine your prescription for glasses or contact lenses. The doctor will also use this instrument to test your reading vision, focusing power, and how well your eyes are working together.
  • Your eye doctor may measure the shape of your eye, especially if you wear contact lenses.

Next, your doctor will check your eye health. The doctor uses a special type of microscope to carefully check the front parts of the eye. Problems like cataracts or pink eye can be seen through the microscope. The doctor will measure the amount of fluid pressure in your eyes to test for glaucoma. Your eye doctor may use special eye drops to dilate your pupils. This opens up the pupils so that the doctor can see your retina and optic nerve at the back of your eye. The doctor checks for serious problems like retinal detachment and macular degeneration. Symptoms of some health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure can also be seen in the eyes.

Finally, your eye doctor will prescribe glasses or contact lenses if you need them. If any eye health problems are found, your doctor will prescribe medication or more tests.

What happens after the eye exam?

If the doctor used eye drops to dilate your pupils, they can take several hours to wear off, so your near vision may be a little blurry and you may be sensitive to light for a few hours. If your doctor prescribed glasses for you, you can select frames and order your new glasses. If you are getting contact lenses, you may need to see your doctor again to have them properly fitted to your eye.

What are the benefits of an eye exam?

An eye exam will ensure that you are seeing as clearly and comfortably as possible. Also, if your doctor finds signs of an eye disease, you can get treatment before the eye disease becomes a problem.

When should I call my eye doctor?

Call your eye doctor immediately if you have:

  • loss of vision
  • pain in or around your eyes
  • flashing lights or objects floating in your vision
  • red eyes with crusty eyelashes or yellow mucus in the corner of your eye.