Experts recommend you visit a qualified eye doctor regularly for a routine eye checkup. Just like you do with your primary care doctor and dentist, you need to find the time to schedule eye checkups.
For most people, eye specialists recommend a full checkup every two years. Children and patients in high-risk groups for certain eye conditions may need checkups at more regular intervals. An eye doctor may also recommend a shorter period between eye exams if they find a significant change in vision from the previous exam.
Is There a Difference Between an Eye Exam and a Vision Screening?
A vision screening is a short test that may indicate you have an eye problem. However, these screening tests can’t be used to diagnose vision problems, and most people will be referred on for further testing. Potentially serious eye problems could be missed, which is why proper eye exams are so important.
What Does an Eye Exam Involve?
A full eye exam covers a range of tests and checks. Visual acuity tests examine how well you can see at a certain distance. This is the part of the test where you may be asked to read letters that get progressively smaller from a chart on the other side of the room.
This is where the phrase “20/20 vision” comes from. The chart, called a Snellen chart, is made up of different-sized letters that the human eye should be able to read at 20 feet. Those with perfect vision can do it, whereas those with 20/40 vision can only see at 20 feet what a patient with perfect vision would be able to see at 40 feet.
Your eye doctor will test your uncorrected visual acuity, meaning you won’t be wearing your glasses. They will test one eye at a time, before testing both eyes together. Then, if you wear glasses, the eye doctor will test your corrected visual acuity to see how much your current glasses are helping you.
The next stage of the test will involve the use of a trial frame, which the eye doctor will insert lenses into at different angles to see whether you see better or worse with them. The eye doctor does this in stages to work out your current prescription.
Instead of a trial frame, some opticians prefer to use an advanced, more automated system called a phoropter or refractor. A full eye exam also incorporates a range of other tests and checks. Your eye doctor will test your pupil response, eye movement, depth perception, field of vision, and eye pressure.
They will also examine the surface of your eye with a light called a slit lamp, as well as examining the back surface of your eye, either with a special lens called a Volk lens, or using an advanced retinal photography camera. Children’s eye exams also often involve color-blindness tests.
What Does an Eye Exam Check For?
Your doctor will be checking the overall health of your eyes and looking for:
During your eye exam, your eye doctor will check for signs of infections, blepharitis, glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and more.
As well as visual acuity, a comprehensive eye exam can detect issues such as crossed or turned eyes, color blindness, or a detached retina, among many others.
Other Health Issues
Your eye doctor may also detect general health problems during a routine eye checkup, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
A routine eye checkup is a very comprehensive examination. Your eye doctor does a lot more than decide if you need glasses or contact lenses. Your eye doctor is a vital part of your healthcare team. They can diagnose eye problems and other health concerns that may require further treatment. In many cases, vision loss can be prevented by having regular eye examinations.