What to Expect at an Eye Exam

Simple Contacts

We can probably all agree—going to the eye doctor isn’t exactly fun. Neither is getting out of bed on a Monday morning or going to the dentist, but unfortunately they’re all on the never-ending list of “things we just have to do.”

The least you can ask for is some foresight.

While we can’t tell you what your Monday morning or your next trip to the dentist will look like, we can shed some light on what to expect from an eye exam. Each eye doctor has his or her own process, but here’s a general idea of what you’ll experience at your appointment.

Visual Acuity Test
Do you have 20/20 vision? This means you can clearly see an object from a 20 ft distance that someone with normal vision can see at a 20 ft distance. This test is typically conducted with an eye chart test: your doctor will ask you to read several lines of letters off of a chart from a set distance. If you’re not seeing 20/20, your doctor will work with you to determine what level of correction allows you to see clearly, then issue you a glasses prescription and, if you’re interested, a contact lens prescription.

Visual Field
It’s not just about seeing straight ahead. To test your peripheral vision, your doctor will ask you to cover one eye at a time and fixate the other on an object (such as a dot of light), then show, shine, or flash objects off to the side of your field of vision. You tell the doctor what you can and can’t see.

Extraocular Movements/Ocular Motility
By asking you to keep your head still and follow an object with just your eyes, your doctor will check the muscles that control your eye movement.

Pupillary Tests
Your doctor may use a light to check how your pupils react to light while also checking your eye’s sensory and motor functions.

Slit Lamp Examination
To check the overall health of your eyes, your doctor may use a special microscope with light to see the inside and outside of your eyes. This check occurs in the dark and you may find yourself blinking a lot as a result of the bright light being shone in your eyes. Don't worry—it happens to the best of us!

It’s important to also check the fluid pressure inside your eye —a test that allows your doctor to evaluate your risk for glaucoma. Your doctor may use a device that blows a small puff of air onto your eye to conduct this check.

Dilated Fundus Examination
You may also have your eyes dilated. Your doctor will apply eye drops that cause your pupils to widen, which allows the eye to take in more light and gives your doctor a better view of the back of your eye. Since your pupils are enlarged, you’ll experience increased sensitivity to light and will have difficulty seeing objects that are up close (like your phone) for a period after the exam, while the dilation wears off. Pro Tip: Bring sunglasses if it’s a sunny day —you’ll be happy to have the extra protection when you leave the doctor’s office!

Through each individual check, your eye doctor will also evaluate for other health conditions you may have, like diabetes, so getting a regular eye exam is important for not only assessing your vision, but also your overall health in general.

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