What to Expect During a Routine Eye Exam

An eye examination is usually carried out by a professional optometrist. Many people believe that eye exams are just to check your vision and determine whether you need a prescription for glasses or contact lenses. In fact, eye exams are also conducted in order for your optometrist to do a thorough check of your overall eye health too and to check for any ocular conditions or diseases that could impact on your vision in the future.

Here is what you can expect to happen during a routine eye exam.

A routine eye examination usually takes around half an hour, although it may be slightly longer if your optometrist considers it necessary to administer additional tests at that time.

At the beginning of your examination your optometrist will ask if it is a general check-up or if you have made the appointment because you have any specific concerns. If you are worried about your vision or eye health, then your optometrist will want to know:

  • what symptoms you have

  • how long you have had them

  • whether the changes have happened rapidly or over an extended period of time

You will also need to provide information on your general health and wellbeing including any current medications that you are taking, any allergies that you may have, whether you are suffering from persistent headaches or migraines, if you have had any problems with your eyes in the past, or if there is any family history of eye conditions or diseases.

If you currently wear glasses or contact lenses, you should take these with you as your optometrist will probably want to discuss your current prescription.

The examination

During the examination your eyes will be checked both inside and out in order to give a comprehensive overview of your ocular health.

The interior of your eye will be examined using a special torch known as an ophthalmoscope. This torch shines a light directly through the eye, allowing your optometrist to carry out a detailed assessment of its internal structures. He/she will also test the reflexes of your pupils.

Some examples of the conditions that your optometrist will be checking for include:

Amblyopia

Amblyopia is the misalignment of the eyes, or when one eye has a much higher degree of refractive error than the other. When this happens, the brain sometimes chooses to suppress the vision from this blurry/unfocused eye. If left untreated, amblyopia can stunt the visual development of the affected eye which can eventually cause permanent vision impairment. However, by placing a patch over the stronger eye or using drops to blur the vision in it, it forces the patient to work the amblyopic eye much harder, strengthening it and usually improving its visual acuity.

Age-related conditions

Unfortunately, our eyesight declines with age and as such, the likelihood of developing certain conditions increases. Your optometrist will be able to check for the early signs of age-related eye conditions such as macular degeneration and cataracts, and put treatment plans in place to help delay them and protect your vision for longer.

Eye-teaming problems

Some people find that their eyes do not work well together. This is known as eye-teaming, and a lack of co-ordination in this area can cause a variety of problems including eye strain and headaches.

Eye diseases

Some eye diseases such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy have virtually no noticeable symptoms in the early stages, but if left untreated, can pose a threat to your permanent vision. However, your optometrist will be able to check for early signs of the disease and put preventative treatment in place early to help protect your eyesight.

Focusing problems

Whether it is underdeveloped focusing skills in children or age-related presbyopia in adults, focus-related problems can occur at any time of your life.

Medical problems

Our eyes can actually be indicative of other health related problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and your optometrist may spot these before regular symptoms become noticeable.

Refractive errors

Your optometrist will check for refractive errors such as far-sightedness, near-sightedness and astigmatism.

Strabismus

If your eyes are misaligned and not working well together, this is often known as being cross-eyed. Strabismus is the official name for this condition, which affects depth perception and can lead to amblyopia.

What happens after my eye exam?

What happens after your eye exam will depend exactly on what your optometrist finds. You may be given a new prescription for glasses or contact lenses to correct refractive errors, you may need visual therapy in order to correct misalignment problems such as amblyopia, or you may need to start treatment for an eye disease. However, you may have perfectly healthy eyes and simply need to schedule another check-up for a year or two down the line.

It is important that you take the advice of your optometrist and work together to maintain your ocular health and vision for years to come.