20s 30s woman eye examA regular eye exam is the best way to protect your eyesight—and an easy precaution to take. It is particularly important if you notice a change in your vision, if your eye is injured in any way, or if you have a family history of eye disease.

What to Expect at an Eye Exam

Each eye doctor is different, but most eye exams follow a similar pattern. First, your doctor will review your personal and family health history – checking for special risk factors like eye disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or poor vision.  

Then, they’ll conduct tests to check for:

  • Vision - The doctor will check for nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), and astigmatism. While you look at an eye chart, the doctor will measure your vision precisely, and, if necessary, determine a prescription for corrective lenses.
  • Coordination of eye muscles - The doctor will move a light in a set pattern to test your ability to see sharply and clearly at near and far distances, and to use both eyes together.
  • Side (peripheral) vision - The doctor will move an object at the edge of your field of vision to make sure you can see it.
  • Pupil response to light - The doctor will shine a light in your eye and watch the pupil's reaction.
  • Color testing - The doctor will ask you to describe figures in a series of illustrations made up of numerous colored dots or circles. This tests your ability to differentiate colors.
  • Eyelid health and function - The doctor will examine your eyelid, inside and out.
  • The interior and back of the eye - After dilating your eyes (by both using a few eye drops and dimming the lights so the pupils will widen), the doctor will use a special instrument called an ophthalmoscope to see through to the retina and optic nerve at the back of the eye
  • Measurement of fluid pressure - The doctor will release a puff of air onto your eyeball using an instrument called a tonometer.  This tests the pressure inside the eyeball, an early indicator of Glaucoma and other diseases.

Test Your Vision

This is not a substitute for a complete eye exam by a doctor – but it may help you discover a vision problem that requires professional attention. You will need a friend to help you, so grab someone and try it!

  1. Print out the Snellen Eye Chart(17.3 KB, PDF)

  2. Tape it on a bare, windowless wall approximately 4 feet from the ground.

  3. Sit in a chair 10 feet from the wall. If you normally wear contact lenses or glasses, wear them for this test.

  4. Ask your friend to hold a cover (such as a handkerchief or paper cup) over one of your eyes and use a flashlight to point at each line of the chart, starting at the top. Keeping both eyes open, read each letter out loud as your friend points.

  5. Record the number, such as 20/20, of the smallest line you can read correctly.

  6. Repeat steps four and five with the other eye.

You should be able to read the 20/20 line with both eyes; if you can't, you may want to ask your eye care professional about vision correction options.

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