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Eye Exam

Reasons to Have One, What to Expect, Associated Risks & More

4 Reasons Why You Would Need an Eye Exam

1. Checking eye health

Getting a regular eye exam is an important part of maintaining eye health and making sure you are not developing any problems with your eyes. As an adult, you should have your eyes checked every five years or so in your 20s and 30s, every two to four years in your 40s, every one to three years in your 50s, and every one to two years after age 65.[1] If you wear corrective lenses, have a history of eye disorders in your family, or take any medications that may affect your eyes, you will need to visit more often.

2. Checking your child’s eye health

Making sure that your child’s eye health is in the best condition is an important part of preparing them for their schooling, and it will help to notice problems as early as possible. Children need to be able to see their lessons, so making sure that they have good vision can help avoid many problems with slipping grades or acting out.[2] In addition, myopia (or nearsightedness) is a common issue that begins during childhood. Being able to address this quickly—which requires diagnosis with an eye exam—is the best thing for your children.

3. Catching other health concerns

Regular eye exams don’t just help you diagnose possible problems like glaucoma, which can cause no symptoms at all.[3] In fact, they can also help diagnose other health problems that, at first glance, may seem to have nothing to do with the eyes. These can include high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, and even certain types of cancer.[2] This is because the blood vessels in the retina of the eye can help show the health of the body’s other blood vessels.

4. Eye-related symptoms

You might start to notice certain symptoms if something is wrong with your eyes. These can include issues with your vision itself like decreased vision, halos around bright lights, floaters (or little specks that float in your vision), double vision, or flashes of light.[4] Symptoms can also include pain, redness, or draining in the eyes. If you notice any of these issues, it’s time to make a regular eye exam appointment now.

Understanding an Eye Exam

There are three types of eye care specialists: ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians. Opticians do not provide eye exams, but they do fit patients for glasses.[1] Ophthalmologists and optometrists, on the other hand, both perform eye exams, although the former is trained to perform eye surgeries. If you are seeking a full eye exam, you should make an appointment with either an ophthalmologist or an optometrist.

At the exam, the eye doctor or their assistant will ask you several questions, including whether or not you are experiencing eye problems now or have experienced them in the past. They will also take your medical history and perform an initial eye test. If you haven’t had an eye exam in a long time, your doctor will likely perform several different eye tests, including the eye muscle test, the visual field test, the visual acuity test, the refraction assessment, the glaucoma screening test, and the color vision test.

Depending on the wait and the number of tests you will need to undergo, it may take as long as an hour to get a full eye exam.

Risks of an Eye Exam

1. No risk

There is no risk associated with regular eye exams. The only risk is when eye exams do not occur regularly enough and patients are unaware of their eye issues, potentially leading to further problems. Even if you feel your eyes are perfectly fine, or if you believe they haven’t changed, it’s still important to see an eye doctor regularly.

What to Expect with an Eye Exam

1. Discussion

It can take time for your doctor to perform the various tests, and your eyes will likely need to be dilated, especially if you haven’t had them dilated in a long time. Therefore, you will have plenty of time to discuss your eye health with your doctor and ask questions. If you are getting new glasses or contacts, you should be prepared to spend extra time picking out your frames and/or trying on different pairs of contact lenses.

2. Dilation

Your doctor will probably want to dilate your eyes, especially if this hasn't been done for a long time. The dilation drops will make it easier for your eye doctor to see the insides of your eyes.[6]

However, having your eyes dilated will make your vision blurry and extremely light sensitive for a few hours. As such, people don’t always want to get their eyes dilated, but it’s an important part of the exam, so it’s necessary to get it done as often as possible.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor About an Eye Exam

  • Can you tell me what to expect during the exam, including what each test is for and what it will be like?
  • What is my visual acuity?
  • Are there any possible symptoms I should be looking out for, based on my exam today?
  • According to my eyes, does it seem like my overall health appears good (i.e. no sign of diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.)?
  • Can I drive after getting my eyes dilated?
  • Will glasses or contacts be a better fit for my eye condition as well as my lifestyle?
  • When should I return for another exam?

Eye Exam May Also be Known as:

  • Vision exam
  • Dilated eye exam
  • Vision check



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