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Eye Exams

Updated on June 19, 2013

Many people believe that eye exams are only meant to check and correct your vision. While this is a valid reason to have an eye exam, there is also another important reason. An eye doctor can check the health of your eye, too.

Eye exams are not just about corrective eye wear.
Eye exams are not just about corrective eye wear. | Source

Why do we need to see an Eye Doctor?

People visit an eye doctor when they can't see well. Some people visit when they are out of contact lenses or their glasses aren't strong enough. We may see an eye doctor if we are getting head aches or if our eyes are straining. Some allergy sufferers spend time at the eye doctor's office, as well.

As we get older, we may find ourselves visiting the eye doctor more and more because of age related issues.

This is an overview of what to expect in an ordinary eye exam.

Have you ever had an Eye Exam?

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A Typical Eye Exam

When you get to the doctor's office, you will probably be asked to fill out some forms. Just like with any doctor, your eye doctor needs some general health information in order to assess your eye health.

There are some pretests you will need before your exam.

  • Auto refractor. This will read your prescription. While it is fairly accurate, it is meant to give the doctor a starting point where he will then ":fine tune" your prescription.
  • Tonometer. This will test the pressure in your eye and helps to diagnose glaucoma.
  • Visual Fields. This will check how well you can see peripherally
  • Retinal Images. This will get a picture of the back of your eye. The doctor will be able to determine how healthy your retina is.
  • Dilation. The use of medicated eye drops to open the pupil so the doctor can get a better view inside and to the back.
  • Some tests also include testing for color blindness and depth perception.

Not all of these tests are necessary for every exam but they are common tests that are used for diagnosing refractive errors or eye conditions.


A common pretest room.
A common pretest room. | Source
A standard eye chart.
A standard eye chart. | Source

20/20 Vision

You've heard people say, "I have 20/20 vision." This is their acuity, how accurately they can see at 20 feet. When you are sitting in the exam room, the first thing you will see is an eyechart. It will probably be an image projected on the wall. With this,the doctor can determine what your visual acuities are. If you are 20/100 that means that you would have to be 20 feet away from an object that someone who doesn't require correction can see at 100 feet away.

Eye Doctors

There are two types of Eye Doctors that you can see for a general Eye Exam. An Optometrist and an Opthamologist.

An Optometrist is an eye doctor who holds a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree. They examine eyes for vision and health problems. They correct refractive errors, can take care of low vision problems and vision therapy. They prescribe corrective eyeglasses, contact lenses and medication to treat certain eye conditions and diseases.


An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor (MD) or an osteopathic doctor (DO) who specializes in eye and vision care. Ophthalmologists are trained to perform eye exams, diagnose and treat disease, prescribe medications and perform eye surgery. They also write prescriptions for eyeglasses and contact lenses.

There are also eye doctors who specialize in particular fields, such as retinalogists, who treat problems with the retina.

What is Refractive Error?

How our eyes focus light determines how well we see. An eye that can view distant objects (by focusing parallel rays of light on the retina) without any accommodation has no refractive error.

Refractive error is when we need accommodation (corrective eye wear) to focus the parallel rays of light.

Refractive error makes up 80% of vision impairment in the US. The prevalence of refractive error increases with age.

An eye exam.
An eye exam. | Source
A retinal photo that shows a hole caused by Macular Deneration.
A retinal photo that shows a hole caused by Macular Deneration. | Source

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    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      I agree! It can look pretty creepy but who can beat that much corrected vision! Thank you Jackie!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I guess as it stands today we are all going to have those glass lenses implanted. lol My mom had them and at certain angles they could look a little eerie. She had 20/20 vision though so that is something to look forward to!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Frank! While every year is ideal, if you are going every couple of years, that's good too!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Mary! Isn't it funny how little effort some people are willing to givew to take of their eyes?!

      Thank you for your support and votes!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Gypsy! Good for you on the yearly exams! I had something similar this year, too, only it turned out to be occular migraines. So glad you are better!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      ChitrangadaSharan,

      Thank you for stopping by, commenting, linking and sharing! I will be sure to check out your hub!

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

      wow I only get an eye exam when I need glasses maybe I should change it to once a year.. hmm a very good useful hub BTRbell

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      This is not only a great hub but a reminder to get your eyes checked. Our most precious gift, sight, is often taken for granted.

      You did a great job describing everything. Hopefully more people will have their eyes examined because of you and this hub!

      Voted up, useful, and interersting.

    • Gypsy48 profile image

      Gypsy48 4 years ago

      I have to have a yearly exam since I wear contact lenses. I went last week and had a thorough exam. Like Bill stated the technology has sure come a long way. Last year I had to see an ophthalmologist for flashes of light I was seeing (Posterior Vitreous Detachment ) which occurs usually after age 60. This usually clears up on its own, which mine did. Useful hub, voted up.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      This is a wonderful hub about Eye examination, giving all the details. Most of us neglect our eyes, till things become worse.

      I loved your article and have interlinked your hub to my related article on --'How to take care of your eyes--simple yogic exercises.' I thought it will be relevant to link your useful hub. If you have any objection, please let me know.

      Many thanks for sharing this very useful hub!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, drbj! I appreciate you, as always!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 4 years ago from south Florida

      Our eyes are a precious resource, Randi. But too many folks delay seeking help when they have eye problems. Thank you for helping your readers SEE the light.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Hi Erica! Yes, I definitely think you should go just to have a baseline, at least. Good luck! :)

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Ah Abby, one of the first concessions to age....our eyes! Personally, I think people look younger with eyeglasses because they are no longer squinting! Good luck at the doctor! Thank you for always being here!

    • SaffronBlossom profile image

      SaffronBlossom 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Great hub! I didn't think about going just for the health of my eyes...I have actually never had an eye exam, though I've also never had vision problems. Might be time to go just for a check-up. :)

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Hey Jami....I do understand. I have been wearing glasses since I was 12! This year, I began to get optical migraines and that was a little scary. Even if you only go when you need new contacts, at least you are going regularly! Thank you! :)

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Well, I would say you do qualify, Bill! Good for you....10 years and your eyesight is better! Buit I bet the close up got worse ;) I had a guy who came in wearing a 30 year old pair of glasses! Pretty crazy! Remember when they measured your eyes with a small ruler?! Now we use a $400 machine that does exactly the same thing!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Hey Susan! I don't have a hub on it yet but I just may take you up on that and write about iritis. So glad it's better! Thank you so much for the votes and share!

    • Abby Campbell profile image

      Abby Campbell 4 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Okay, okay, okay! My kids and hubby have been bugging me for months now to get my eyes checked as I can't even find my reading glasses when I'm looking for them. How can I if I don't have them on? LOL Though I must have about a dozen pairs lying around. But, your message here is loud and clear, Randi. I just made a note to call my eye doctor tomorrow morning. Thank you for the reminder. My family will appreciate your voice. ;)

    • JamiJay profile image

      Jami Johnson 4 years ago from Somewhere amongst the trees in Vermont.

      I have been wearing glasses since I was 8 years old, but I hate the eye doctors, not because I have a weird fear (I actually don't mind touching my eye, and my eye doctor even puts my contacts in for me) but because I feel like it is a test I will inevitably fail. I only go to the eye doctor when I am out of contacts or I need new lenses for my glasses.

      Great info Randi!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well my friend, since I've had glasses since I was five, I guess I qualify as a knowledgeable reader for this hub. :)

      I had an exam in 2002 and then not again until 2012, and I was amazed by the advancement in technology in that time span. It was really pretty cool to see the changes that had happened, and I'm happy to report my eyesight was even slightly better. :)

      Good information, Randi!

      bill

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I was just at my ophthalmologist's today. A few months ago I had a pain behind my eye and the eye was really bloodshot. Turned out to be iritis. Was wondering if you happen to have a hub written about iritis? He has no idea why I ended up with it but thankfully it has all cleared up.

      Voted up +++ and sharing.