A Guide to Your Next Eye Examination

The Importance of Eye Testing

Optimal eye health is more than just about having good vision. The ability to see well is just one of many aspects constituting ocular health. In addition to routine testing to monitor general visual acuity, most adults periodically require comprehensive examinations as they age, in order to prevent complications from developing. 

Extensive testing is particularly critical for diabetics, those taking steroid medications, the elderly, and others predisposed to ocular problems. The recommended frequency for such evaluations is discussed in greater detail in the section How Often Should You Have  An Eye Exam?

Preparation For Your Exam

Before scheduling an appointment, ask around for recommendations of good specialists in your region. It is best to select professionals with good reputations. 

Describe your symptoms when scheduling a consultation for an acute problem. Some conditions require immediate attention. Acute trauma requires more immediate intervention than scheduling an annual optical test. By listing your symptoms, an optometrist can gauge how critical the situation is. In certain instances they may recommend emergency medical intervention.

  • Bring all prescription lenses to the appointment, including contact lenses, sports goggles, and reading glasses. 
  • Inform the doctor of your personal and family medical history and list any prescription medications. Report on any current symptoms. 

Don’t be ashamed to ask for clarification if something is unclear. Be your own advocate!

What to Expect

The length of an exam depends on your medical history and the reason for your visit, which will be discussed at the beginning of the evaluation. Exams for the young and healthy are generally shorter in duration and should average under 30 minutes. Standard procedures include:

Checking Ocular-Muscle Movement

This is a common way to measure alignment. The doctor will ask you to follow and track an object.

Visual Acuity Assessment

This checks overall vision. You will be asked to read from a Snellen chart where the letters decrease in size as you progress down the chart.

Cover Test

The doctor will cover and uncover each eye while you focus on an object, to determine how well they work in unison.

Assessing The Pupil

The doctor will see how well your pupils adjust to nearby objects and light, as well as examine external parts of the orbital region.

In addition to standard assessments for visual acuity, diabetics, people taking steroid medications, adults after 40, and others at higher risk for vision disorders require extensive evaluations to monitor and prevent further deterioration. More exhaustive evaluations may take as long as 90 minutes and they include the following:

Diagnosis is easy and painless, using a device that subjects the eyes to bursts of strong air pressure.

A magnifying instrument called an ophthalmoscope is used to observe the retinal and optical region.

This is a standard procedure for diabetics, where drops are administered to dilate the pupils, allowing thorough evaluation. Take a friend with you if you are driving, since you will be unable to drive home with dilated pupils.

This instrument creates a 3D image, allowing for analysis of the entire orbital structure.

Frequently Asked Questions

Many experts recommend annual testing for children as young as 5-6 years of age. Those predisposed to ocular disorders require frequent care, depending on individual medical history. Diabetics are encouraged to annually see a specialist, unless an optometrist deems more frequent appointments necessary. 

Acute health issues from infection or injury occasionally require emergency medical intervention. Age and health are key determinants in how often you should see an optometrist, and what kind of testing you require. Speak with your doctor to find out how often to schedule appointments.

That depends on several factors, including age, medical history, and lifestyle. Diabetics, the elderly, people taking steroid medications, and those with chronic ocular issues are high risk for serious conditions. So are those with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heavy alcoholic drinkers, and heavy smokers. Certain ethnic groups are susceptible to vision disorders.

People who engage in competitive physical sports, or work in industrial work environments at higher risk for injuries involving trauma to the region. Babies and toddlers (and their parents) are vulnerable to conjunctivitis, a common, (usually harmless) highly-treatable, contagious infection known as pinkeye.

Treatments vary depending on complications, the health and medical history of the patient, and how early the condition is detected. Different interventions include:

  • Corrective prescription glasses and contact lenses
  • Antibiotics for infections such as conjunctivitis
  • Surgery to correct cataracts or other issues such as corneal laceration
  • Medicated drops/ointments to prevent visual deterioration from glaucoma
  • Vision Therapy for people with visual-motor or neurological deficits
  • Removal of a foreign object

While it is difficult to list all of the symptoms requiring immediate attention, contact an ophthalmologist if you experience any of the following signs; particularly if they occur following trauma to the head or orbital region:

  • Redness, swelling, irritation
  • Pain or discomfort
  • Heavy tearing
  • Loss of vision, double or blurred vision
  • Bulging eyes
  • Discharge or crustiness
  • Floaters
  • Sensation of a foreign object

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