What to Expect During an Eye Exam

Learn what happens during an eye exam including visual acuity tests, coverage tests, pupil dilation tests and more.

What to Expect During an Eye Exam

An eye exam is a series of tests used to evaluate vision and detect eye diseases. Your eye doctor will use several instruments, illuminate your eyes with bright lights, and ask you to look through a variety of lenses. Each test done during an eye exam evaluates a different aspect of vision or eye health. To begin, your eye doctor or a member of the office staff will ask you about your medical and vision history.

Visual acuity tests are among the first tests performed in a comprehensive eye exam. These tests measure the sharpness of vision. To check how the eyes work together, the coverage test is the simplest and most common. During this test, your eye doctor will ask you to focus on a small object on the other side of the room and then cover each of your eyes alternately while you look at the target.

The test is then repeated with your eyes fixed on a nearby object. The most well-known part of the eye exam is the visual acuity test. The doctor will ask you to read an optometric chart full of numbers and letters with one or both eyes. Your ability to clearly read and identify numbers and letters helps the doctor to better determine your eye prescription needs.

To specify your exact prescription, your doctor will place a large lens refractor in front of you and ask you a series of questions about which lenses improve or worsen your vision. Your vision will be measured with and without eyeglasses or contact lenses to check if there are any problems with your vision. Your eye doctor will evaluate your distance vision, near vision, and intermediate vision (for computer use). Tonometry is also essential to rule out early signs of glaucoma and protect your eyesight.

It's also important that you see your eye doctor every time you experience an eye problem, no matter how small it may seem. If you have had eye problems in the past, or if you are at risk of developing them (if someone in your family has had them), you should see an eye doctor every year. During this part of the eye exam, your eye doctor will discuss the best vision correction option for your lifestyle and needs. Tests range from simple tests, such as having you read an optometric chart, to complex tests, such as using a high-powered lens to view the tiny structures inside the eyes.

The doctor will ask you to keep your head still and will ask you to follow the slow movement of a portable light or other target with just your eyes. It is recommended that children have their first eye exam at 6 months of age and again before starting school, even if they don't show any external signs of vision problems. Problems with eye movements can cause eye fatigue and affect reading ability, sports vision, and other skills. Using one of three tests, the eye doctor maps what you see at the edges (periphery) of the visual field and will use this map to diagnose eye conditions. To get a better view of the internal structures of the eye, the doctor places dilating drops to enlarge the pupils. They will also check for common eye diseases, evaluate how your eyes work together, and evaluate your vision as an indicator of your overall health.

Pupil dilation is very important for people with risk factors for eye diseases, since it allows a more comprehensive evaluation of the health inside the eyes. Once the drops take effect, the doctor will use several instruments to look inside the eyes. If you have a health problem, such as high blood pressure, work at a job that requires you to use your eyes a lot, or take medications that can affect your vision, you may need more frequent tests.

Kelli Roswick
Kelli Roswick

Avid internet enthusiast. Certified twitter enthusiast. Amateur internet trailblazer. Lifelong internet specialist. Amateur pop culture guru.

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