What To Expect in an Eye Exam

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What To Expect in an Eye Exam


Eye exams are an important part of preventing issues and maintaining vision health. Regular eye exams can help identify vision problems as well as diagnose eye disease—sometimes even before patients have begun to experience symptoms. 

However, if you’ve never had one before, the prospect of an eye exam can be a little daunting, or even anxiety-inducing. To calm your nerves and ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible, it can be helpful to have an idea of what to expect.

Who Needs an Eye Exam?

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that everyone get a complete eye exam by the age of 40, even if they have good vision. For people with existing conditions or a history of eye disease, annual or bi-annual exams may be recommended. If you meet any of the following criteria, it might be a good idea to check with an eye doctor to see if an exam is needed:

  • You have existing vision problems or are experiencing worsening vision
  • Your family has a history of eye disease
  • You have diabetes
  • You are of Mexican American or African American descent

Who Conducts Eye Exams?

Both optometrists and ophthalmologists can conduct eye exams. Often, they will be assisted by technicians, who may perform parts of the exam for them. 

What Happens in an Eye Exam?

Eye exams might comprise a variety of tests or procedures depending on your specific needs and concerns. However, you can generally count on receiving a visual acuity test, in which you’ll be asked to read a series of increasingly smaller letters off of a chart to test your vision. In addition to a vision exam, your eye exam might include any of the following:

  • Eye muscle test
  • Refraction assessment
  • Visual field test
  • Color vision testing
  • Slit-lamp examination
  • Retinal examination
  • Glaucoma screening
  • Ophthalmoscopy
  • Tonometry

Do Eye Exams Hurt?

Depending on the procedures and tests being conducted, some eye exams can be a little uncomfortable. For example, some of the tests mentioned above (including the ophthalmoscopy, slit-lamp exam, and retinal exam) require that your eyes be dilated using special drops. Others involve having bright lights or small puffs of air aimed at your eyes. While these might cause some short-lived discomfort or temporary sensitivity to light, eye exams are almost never painful.


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