An eye exam is a way to test your vision and eye health. Your eye care provider checks to see if you need glasses or contact lenses. The provider also tests the health of your eyes to make sure that you do not have any eye diseases. If your provider finds signs of an eye disease, you can get treatment before the eye disease becomes a problem. This may prevent a permanent loss of vision.
When should I have an eye exam?
Everyone should have regular eye exams. If you donâ€™t have problems with your vision or other eye symptoms, you should have an eye exam:
At least once before you turn 40
Every 2 to 4 years if you are age 41 to 64
Every 1 to 2 years if you are age 65 or older
Any child who fails a school vision screening test should also have a complete eye exam. All babies who are born premature should have a complete eye exam as soon as possible after birth.
You may need to see your eye care provider more often if you have certain eye problems, diseases, or risk factors. For example:
If you have diabetes, see your eye care provider at least every year.
If you have diabetes and are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, have an eye exam before you get pregnant and within the first 3 months of pregnancy.
If you have risk factors for glaucoma, such as African American descent or a family history of the disease, see your provider every 2 years until age 40 and every 1 to 3 years between the ages of 40 and 64. Get an exam every year at age 65 and older.
If you take hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) for rheumatoid arthritis, have an eye exam every year while taking this medicine. In very rare cases, the medicine can cause a change in the retina. If you notice any change in You should also see your eye care provider if you have:
Blurry vision or eyestrain
Any other eye problem
How do I prepare for an 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 care provider will want to know if you are having any vision problems. Your job has a big effect on your vision, so your provider will want to know if you do a lot of computer work or drive a lot, for example. The provider will also want to know if you have any general health problems and what medicines you take. Keep an updated list of all of your medicines, including eyedrops, for your provider. Make a list of questions you have for the provider and take the list with you to the exam.
What happens during an eye exam?
Your eye care provider will ask you if you are having any problems with your eyes. If you already wear glasses or contact lenses, your provider will ask when you wear them and how long you wear them. If you wear contact lenses, your provider will also ask what solutions you use to clean them. Next, the provider will do these vision tests:
You will read an eye chart to test your vision.
You will then look through a special scope while the provider places lenses in front of your eyes to check your reading vision and your prescription for glasses or contact lenses. The provider will also test how well your eyes focus, and how well your eyes work together.
Your eye care provider will test your peripheral and side vision.
Your eye care provider may measure the shape of your eye, especially if you wear contact lenses.
Next your provider will check your eye health, using several different kinds of tests:
The provider uses a special type of microscope called a slit lamp to carefully check the front parts of your eye. Problems like cataracts, which are cloudy areas in the lens of the eye, or eye infections can be seen with the slit lamp.
To check for glaucoma, you will have an eye pressure test, which uses a small puff of air that is blown against your open eye or a device that briefly touches your eye to measure the pressure inside your eye. If you have high eye pressure, you may be at risk for or have glaucoma.
Your eye care provider may use eyedrops to dilate your pupils. The eyedrops open up the pupils so that the provider can see the back of your eye. The provider checks for serious problems like abnormal blood vessels or a pulling away of the retina, which is the lining at the back of the eye. Signs of health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure can also be seen by examining your eyes.
If you have a vision problem, your eye care provider will prescribe glasses or contact lenses. If any eye health problems are found, your provider may prescribe medicine or more tests.
What happens after the eye exam?
If the provider used eyedrops to dilate your pupils, your eyes may stay dilated for 4 to 6 hours. This may make your near vision a little blurry and you may be sensitive to light for a few hours.
If your provider prescribed glasses for you, you can select frames and order your new glasses at any time after your visit. If you do not need glasses for distance, but you do need glasses for reading, your provider may recommend nonprescription reading glasses. Ask what power or strength you should choose. If you are getting contact lenses, you may need to see your provider again to have them properly fitted to your eye.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-10-28 Last reviewed: 2014-10-28
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Eye Exam: References
Sloan FA, Yashkin AP, Chen Y. Gaps in Receipt of Regular Eye Examinations among Medicare Beneficiaries Diagnosed with Diabetes or Chronic Eye Diseases. Ophthalmology. 2014 Aug 29.