Eye Exams: Definition And What To Expect
Why is it important to test your eyes?
Regardless of physical condition or age, it is essential to have at least an annual eye exam to help catch any eye problem before it progresses. This gives you the best chance to correct or prevent the condition from worsening.
Your eye doctor will test your vision to determine the power required for your eyeglasses as well as check for common eye diseases, assess how your eyes work together and evaluate your eyes as an indicator of your overall health.
The difference between a vision screening and an eye exam
A common mistake many people make is to assume that a vision screening is actually a comprehensive eye exam, this is actually not the case.
Vision screenings are basic eye tests that help identify whether you have any problem with your vision, but does not test for eye diseases or the underlying causes for any vision problem you may have. It does however, indicate whether you should get a comprehensive eye exam, but should not be seen as a substitute for one.
A comprehensive eye examination on the other hand is performed by an eye doctor and will involve a thorough examination of all aspects of your vision. Your doctor will then recommend a treatment plan customised to your individual needs. This includes prescription lenses, eye exercises, eye drops or ointment, and even surgery if the problem is serious.
What to expect from a vision test?
A vision test is a relatively short examination compared to a full eye exam. It is often a precursor to identify if you need a full eye exam, as it identifies whether you have a vision problem rather than identifying what the issue is.
However, vision tests are relatively easy to conduct and you do not need an optometrist or ophthalmologist present, as an optician, nurse, and other medical professionals are capable of performing the test.
The vision test is usually a set of simple vision tests and assessments such as:
- Testing your vision using the "Big E" or "Snellen" chart
- Testing your eye's reaction to light and muscle coordination using simple charts or following a light to test your reactions
- Some vision screenings also test for colour blindness using colour charts like the Ishihara Colour test
As these tests are relatively simple and not that comprehensive, it is important to provide as much information during this test. Sharing any vision impairments, injuries to your eyes, or a family history of vision conditions, will be helpful to the professional conducting your test. They can then look out for tell-tale signs of possible conditions and recommend the correct course of action. This is usually a comprehensive eye exam.
What to expect from an eye exam
A eye exam may vary slightly depending on your age or specific needs, but most commonly include these tests:
- Visual Acuity: This is a test to measure the sharpness of your vision.
- Color Blindness: A screening test to check your color vision to rule out color blindness.
- Cover Test: This is the simplest and easiest way to test if your eyes work well together.
- Ocular Motility or Eye Movements: This test determines how well your eyes can follow a moving object as well as fixate on different targets. Issues with eye movement can cause eye strain and lead to difficulties in reading.
- Glaucoma: Most glaucoma tests involve testing the pressure in your eye. Most eye exams perform some form of glaucoma test.
- Slit Lamp Exam: This is a specific test your eye doctor uses to examine the structure of your eye under high magnification. This helps detect a wide range of eye conditions and diseases including cataracts, macular degeneration, corneal ulcers and diabetic retinopathy.
Comprehensive eye exams have many more tests, but these are the most common and cover a wide spectrum of potential eye conditions.
You can get an eye exam at an ophthalmologist clinic or clinic that specialises in vision treatments. Most opticians or small clinics may not have the equipment or experts on hand to conduct a comprehensive eye exam. It is important to book an appointment first to make sure they can accommodate your requests.
At the eye exam, you can expect the ophthalmologist to take a comprehensive medical history to figure out what they should be looking out for. These questions can range from your family history, past and present medical issues, medications you might be on, injuries, and other factors. It is essential to be as forthcoming and thorough as possible with your answers to ensure that the test covers all likely possibilities.
Eye Exams and Age
When we are young or in peak physical condition, we often tend to overlook having our eye health checked. However, this shouldn’t be the case as eye problems can present at any age or physical fitness level.
Children should have regular vision screening and eye exams, because impaired vision can severely impact a child’s ability to learn and grow academically and socially. Children today, have started using digital devices even before they start walking. Extended use of these screens can cause eye strain or tiredness, which can impact your child’s vision.
There is a close correlation between the use of digital devices and the significant increase in myopia among children in the world. This makes eye exams for children essential to identify and treat vision problems as soon as they arise. While vision screenings are helpful to identify children who already have significant myopia, they aren't sensitive enough to identify all conditions and diseases, which may impact your child’s learning during his or her formative years.
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