What to Expect at Your Next Eye Exam

Last Updated on February 9, 2024 by Josh Wilkerson

As eyes and our vision are arguably one of our most vital senses in life, it is important that we make sure our eyes are in good condition by getting an eye exam regularly. An eye exam is essential not only for determining whether or not you need glasses, but also for being aware of the general health of your eyes and any diseases that could develop. Unlike dentist or doctor appointments that can sometimes instill fear into the attendee, an eye exam is virtually painless and can actually make for an exciting time. This is not to mention the fact that at the end of the appointment, if glasses are needed it can be a time to define and express your particular style.

How often do I need an eye exam?
Vision tends to change most often during the adolescent period, as your vision is subject to change just as much as your body changes. Therefore, it is important that between the ages of 6 months and 18 years, an eye exam should be done every two years, in the case that your vision seems stable. This is important if your vision does happen to change during this time period and even more so if bad vision is in your genetic history as well. Because much of a child’s education in school is done visually, this is particularly needed to ensure a better learning experience. If your vision does change, an annual eye exam would be necessary. After the adolescent period, vision generally tends to stay the same and getting an eye exam every two years would be sufficient. However, when you hit the age of forty and are more prone to eye diseases such as Presbyopia, eye exams should become more common. This is only one of the many diseases that your eyes have a higher chance of developing as you grow older, especially if it is in your genetic history. In the case that you have diabetes or high blood pressure it is essential that you get in the routine of getting your eyes checked annually. Once you reach the age of 40-60, it is recommended to get an eye exam every two to four years.

In general, this is the ideal way to ensure the health of your eyes and to give you a more comfortable life style. Because we are adaptable beings, it can be difficult to notice whether or not your vision is changing, therefore, taking an eye exam at the right time can be life changing. Of course, it is also extremely important to schedule an eye exam as soon as possible if you notice that your vision has changed in an abnormal way or if you notice that something is bothering your eyes.

How to be prepared for an eye exam
On the day of your scheduled eye exam, be sure to bring your glasses and/or contact lens case, as your optometrist will most likely need you to take out your contact lens and examine your vision with and without your glasses. Bring knowledge about your previous glasses and prescription level. Also, bring sunglasses in case your pupils need to be dilated at the eye exam. Although most optometrist offices will most likely have these materials ready for you, it is always best to come prepared so you can leave the appointment comfortably. Come to your eye exam ready to tell the doctor any family history regarding eye diseases and any drugs or medications that you may currently be taking. Because your habits and lifestyle can also affect the possibility of your vision changing, the optometrist will most likely ask you about your hobbies, what you do for work, and the kinds of sports you play. Prepare for an eye exam that can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.

Vision checks during the eye exam
A multitude of things will be tested during your eye exam and a basic comprehensive exam will depend on whether or not you wear glasses, contact lenses, or if you made an appointment for a particular reason regarding your eyes. The first thing that will be checked at the eye exam is your vision, both without and without your given prescription. Your distance vision will be assessed, along with your near vision and your intermediate vision. This is to determine how well you see things at a far distance, near distance, and how your vision is accustomed to things like a computer screen. To do this the doctor will provide a chart with letters for you and with your right or left eye covered, ask you to read down the line until you can’t read the letters clearly anymore. It is important that you try not to instinctively squint at the letters on the wall, as this will provide incorrect information about your sight.

Your Eye Health
The next essential thing in an eye exam is checking the general health of your eye, in which the doctor will examine both the inside and outside of your eyes. This will most likely be done with an ophthalmoscope that shines a light through to your pupil to examine the inside of your eyes. Though it is not done at every eye exam, if the doctor feels that he wants to take a closer look at the internal structure of your eye, he may dilate your pupil. Pupil dilation is also used to check on the health of your retina as well. Your sunglasses will come in handy at this point, as your vision will be become blurry and your pupils will be quite sensitive to the light for the next 20-30 minutes.

Your eye muscle movement, the general alignment of your eyes, and how your eyes work together as a team will also be assessed during the eye exam. To test your eye muscle movement, the doctor will ask you to track an object with your eyes and observe how your eyes follow the object. Coordination and eye movement ability is important, especially if your work requires you to stare at a computer screen a majority of the time. The doctor will also test this by covering and uncovering each eye to see how well they do working on their own. The “puff of air” test is also quite common during an eye exam, and this is used to check if the level of fluid pressure in your eyes is at a healthy level. The puff can come as a little shock of air straight to your eyes and the amount your eyes resist against it will reveal your eyes’ fluid pressure. Increased pressure within the eye can cause glaucoma, which can result in the eventual and gradual loss of sight.

Another test that is distinctive during an eye exam and can also help monitor your risk for glaucoma is the visual field test. A machine called the visual field screener is usually used for this test and requires you to focus at a center light, while other brief flashes of light appear at different places within your peripheral vision. Your response to each flash would be to click a button immediately, and it is important that you continue to keep your eyes focused on the center. In the eye exam, this test will help the most to determine any problems you might have and also determines the general health of your eyes and vision.

The right prescription for you
In the case that the doctor does find that your vision has gotten worse during your eye exam, he or she then has to figure out your exact prescription. The eye doctor will measure the way light reflects off of your eyes with a machine to determine and estimate the level of prescription you need, while you stare at a distant object. To get the exact vision level, the doctor will flip different lenses for you and ask you to tell him which one is better.

The last part of the eye exam is determining what glasses or contact lenses you need. You have the option of choosing from the office itself or looking at other frames that are offered elsewhere. The important thing to remember is that the level of your prescription given to you at your eye exam is vital, especially if you happen to have bad vision. Keep this in mind as you choose your frames, as it will change how your eyes behind the lenses will appear. If you opt for contact lenses, the doctor will give you precise instructions on how to keep them and how long you should wear them in a day at the end of the eye exam. Paying heed to these instructions is especially important because contact lenses can often dry out your eyes or infect them if you don’t keep them clean. Make sure to also have a good pair of glasses in addition to the contact lens because your eyes will most likely need breaks.