Our biggest piece of advice for supporting your eye health is simple: ! Routine eye exams are an essential part of maintaining not just your vision, but your overall health, as well. After all, your eyes can provide vital information about your general health, like if you have diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure.
But if you’ve never had an eye exam before, or if it's just been a while since your last visit, it can be intimidating to know what to expect. To help shed some light on the matter, we’ve broken down everything you need to know about routine eye exams, from how to prepare to what happens after.
How To Prepare For Your Routine Eye Exam
If this is your first time meeting with your eye doctor, be sure to come prepared with your family history. Certain eye diseases and conditions can be passed down genetically, and understanding your family’s medical history can help you and your eye doctor know what warning signs to look for. If you're not sure what diseases run in your family, now is the perfect time to call around, catch up with your loved ones, and learn more.
Once you have your family medical history in hand, make sure to bring a list of any medications that you take daily, as well. From prescription medications to vitamin supplements, your eye doctor will want to know what, if anything, is in your system that could be affecting your vision.
Additionally, make a list of any questions or concerns you have ahead of time and bring that list with you. Your eye doctor will want to know exactly how you're feeling, what troubles you have, and what your day-to-day experience is like.
Finally, if you have them, make sure to bring your glasses or contact lenses. Your eye doctor will want to check and make sure that your vision prescription is up to date, and having these items with you can help save time.
Once you're in one of our offices but before your comprehensive eye exam has truly started, you'll have a moment to talk to a member of our team. This will likely be one of our clinical assistants or technicians, rather than your eye doctor. Think about when you visit your PCP: you probably talk to a nurse and get your vitals checked before your doctor even enters the room!
This is a great time to discuss everything you've prepared, and if this is your first eye exam with Everett & Hurite, you might be asked to answer some additional questions, as well. These might include:
- Are you having any eye problems, or have you had them in the past?
- Have you had eye surgery in the past?
- If you wear glasses or contacts, are you satisfied with them?
- Do you have any allergies to food, medication, etc.?
When the exam officially begins, your eye doctor will first use a series of basic tests to measure your visual acuity. The visual acuity test uses an eye chart to measure how clearly you can see, and it's similar to the vision screenings you may have had as a child at school. You'll likely be asked to cover one eye, and then the other, to check your depth perception.
There's also the refraction assessment, which uses a series of lenses housed in a 'photoropter' to estimate your prescription and help determine if you need glasses. This is the well-known part of the exam where you'll repeatedly be asked, 'One, or two?'
Next, the inside of your eye will need to be examined. To make it easier for your eye doctor to do this, you'll likely be given numbing drops and eyedrops to dilate your eyes. Once they've taken effect, your eye doctor will use special tools to measure your eye pressure and look closely at the structures of your eyes.
There are several tests that might be done at this stage, like:
- Slit-Lamp Examination: A slit lamp is a device that uses a narrow beam of bright light to examine the structures of your eyes, like your eyelids, lashes, and corneas. This test helps your doctor look for signs of infection, trauma, or eye disease.
- Screening: This test measures your eye pressure, or intraocular pressure, to check for glaucoma. Glaucoma is a condition that damages the optic nerve of your eye, and if it's left untreated, can lead to vision loss or even blindness. During this test, your eye doctor will either use a puff of air or a small instrument to touch your eye, but thanks to the numbing drops, the test isn't painful.
- Retinal Examination: Using a special device, your eye doctor can examine your retina and other structure at the back of your eye and check for any signs of damage or disease. Your retina is responsible for sending messages to your brain about what you see, so it's important to keep an eye on its health.
When the tests are all done, you'll have another chance to speak with your eye doctor about any questions or concerns you have. Your eye doctor will also talk to you about your results, including any updates to your eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions.
If the tests reveal any developing eye diseases, your doctor will discuss prevention methods with you. Depending on your situation, treatment options might also be made available to you. Don't be afraid to ask questions or voice any concerns you have. We want to ensure that all of our patients understand the results of their exams and receive the best possible care.
Medical Eye Exams vs Routine Eye Exams
While routine eye exams and medical eye exams both involve testing to check your vision and the overall health of your eyes, there are some key distinctions between them. With routine eye exams, the goal is to check your vision, examine your eye health, and determine whether you need corrective lenses.
Medical eye exams, however, focus more on diagnosing and treating existing eye issues. If you have current eye issues, like glaucoma or cataracts, your doctor may recommend that you come in for a medical eye exam. These exams usually take longer than routine eye exams, involve more comprehensive tests, and are typically billed to your medical insurance carrier rather than your vision insurance.
Why Routine Eye Exams Are Important
Routine eye exams aren't just about making sure you have an up-to-date eyeglass prescription. Getting your eyes checked regularly is essential for catching eye diseases early and stopping their progression. For instance, if you have a family history of age-related macular degeneration (), a disease that typically isn't symptomatic early on, routine eye exams can help your doctor detect and fight against the condition long before you start having issues.
Plus, routine eye exams produce information that can be used to detect diseases and health issues that affect the rest of the body, too. For example, diabetes can damage the blood vessels in your eyes, meaning that your eye doctor might be able to spot it before your PCP does.