What to Expect in a Typical Eye Examination: And How Frequently You Should Get Tested


Routine medical examinations are – or should be – a regular part of life. It’s advisable to have a full health checkup once in a while to keep our bodies in tiptop condition and in prime working order. The old saying, “prevention is the best cure,” is particularly applicable when it comes to our health, and getting your eyes checked is no exception.

Of course, the first step is to diagnose the problem in the first place so getting a professional to test your eyes is essential.

How often should you have an eye examination

Children have their own specific guidelines for the frequency of eye examinations, as the body undergoes considerable changes through childhood and adolescence. When it comes to adults, however, most experts agree you should have an eye test once in your 20s and twice in your 30s.

By age 40, it is essential that all adults have a complete and thorough eye examination as this is the age when disease or changes most frequently occur. Early treatment is essential to preserve your vision. Also, over 65’s should have an eye examination every year/two years.

Obviously, there are some exceptions, and if you develop eye problems (such as injury, infection or a pain), you should seek medical attention immediately. Also, if you have diabetes, a history of eye disease or already wear contact lenses, you should see your optician regularly — preferably on an annual basis.

Most eye problems are very easily cured and most treatment after an eye exam will normally amount to a prescription for glasses or contact lenses. Buying glasses is easier than ever these days, though, and it’s now even possible to buy prescription lenses and frames from websites like Just-glasses.co.uk.

What’s checked in an eye examination

A typical eye exam takes around 60-90 minutes and comprises relatively simple and comfortable tests to evaluate the quality of your eyesight. At the start of the test, an ophthalmologist will normally ask for your full medical history before going on to do specific tests including:

Visual sharpness: Visual tests still typically rely on the familiar, old-style eye chart with letters facing different directions. Tests are done to check the visual accuracy of both eyes from various distances.

Eye movement and muscles: These tests check your eye movement, eye muscles and eye alignment. These checks are sometimes called ocular motility evaluations.

Pupil test: The ophthalmologist will shine a beam into your eye to check that pupils contract as expected. A failure to react can often point to more significant underlying problems.

Side vision tests: Your peripheral vision will also be tested to check for glaucoma which is often identifiable by problems with side vision.

Eye pressure (tonometry): Increased eye pressure (also known as Intraocular Eye Pressure – IOP) can be another sign of glaucoma so your ophthalmologist will test the pressure of your eye, normally by pressing against or near your eye with a sensor. As this part of the test is quite uncomfortable, they may apply eyedrops to help numb your eye.

Cornea, iris, lens and eyelid tests: Cataracts, scars and scratches can occur in the cornea so an ophthalmologist will use a lamp microscope to check for any irregularities on all areas on the front of your eye.

Retina and nerve tests: To detect signs of disease in the retina or optic nerve, the ophthalmologist may apply eyedrops to dilate and widen your pupil. This allows them to examine your eye in more detail. You may experience sensitivity to light for several hours after this part of the examination.

Additional tests: Depending on the results from the above tests, your ophthalmologist may also perform additional tests and further examinations in the back or inside of the eye to check for other complications.

In most cases, an eye exam is a simple and pain-free process. If your eye functions are failing or you’re found to be developing problems, you will typically be offered a corrective lens test on each eye using a phoropter. This allows the ophthalmologist to determine the best corrective lens to alleviate any problems you might have.

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