6 September 2023
If you are getting ready to set up eye exams for yourself or family, here is some information about what to expect.
First, there are two main types of eye doctors: opthalmologist and optometrist. An opthalmologist is a medical school graduate with a year’s internship, residence of three years, and often capped with a fellowship. They provide complete eye exams plus surgery or specialized care for conditions that affect the eye like diabetes or medications, trauma, or other issues. Optometrists are college graduates with four years in a professional program that awarded them a doctor of optometry. They primarily concern their practice with eye exams, prescribe and fit corrective lenses, monitor conditions related to certain diseases like diabetes, treat conditions like glaucoma. Opthalmologists and optometrists often work together for comprehensive patient care. An optician is someone who fits eyeglasses and contact lenses.
As you make your appointment, mention any vision problems you may currently be having. Bring your glasses and contact lenses. If the doctor plans to dilate your eyes, you should bring sunglasses to attenuate any light sensitivity following that procedure. Bring along a list of any questions you may have.
When you arrive for your eye exam, you will need to provide medical history and medications, giving any special attention to concerns about your vision or eye health. The standard appointment will last around an hour, although it could extend longer if there are additional tests necessary. Some of the tests to expect include:
- Eye muscles – This will determine alignment as your focus follows an object up, down, side to side, etc.
- Targeting – Staring at a small item, one eye will be covered and uncovered and then repeated with the other eye. This is to see how well the eyes work together.
- Reactions – To see how your pupils react to light and dark and near and far objects.
- Visual acuity – This is the one we all are familiar with. It starts with a really big E and works its way down to microscopic. It is to do what it sounds like. See how well you see. They will probably also hand you a card with a paragraph in various font sizes to do the same with close vision.
- Refraction – “Which is clearer? 1 or 2?” “They both look the same.” This phoroptor is used to determine the best prescription for corrective lenses.
- Slit lamp – This is a bright light so the doctor can see the cornea, iris, lens, and back of the eye looking for any problems or conditions.
- Retinal – To see the rest of the eye like the retina, blood vessels, retinal nerve, and check for excess fluid, they will put drops in your eye to expand the pupil and then use an opthalmoscope to view the area.
Depending on you, medical conditions, medications, or concerns, they may also check for color blindness with a book that looks like it should belong to a two-year old, vision field to assure your full peripheral vision, and other tests.
How often should you have your eyes examined? Just like most health issues, it will depend on your age, family history, medical condition, and any trauma. As a rule of thumb, under 40 with no concerns, every two years, or even less depending on what your primary care team suggests. Over 40, every one or two years. A child with no risk factors, should be tested as a newborn and during well-baby checks. At reaching first-grade age, a test every year or two would work.
Regular testing screens for early identification of problems that may be due to glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic issues, cataracts, or other situations.