Eye care

What Does an Eye Examination Involve?

Even if you haven’t noticed any problems with your sight or eye health it is important that you get regular eye examinations. Not only do these checks help you to maintain a comfortable clarity of vision but they can also give an indication of other health conditions in their early stages such as glaucoma and diabetes.


Eye tests are even more important for people with a family history of eye problems, for adults over 60 and for young children whose eyes are still in their developing stages. Your optician may also recommend more frequent examinations if you have high blood pressure, work in a very visually demanding job such as at a computer, have particular health conditions or take medication that could affect your eyesight.

As there are lots of different ways to carry out the same test, every optician will undertake an eye examination slightly differently. Your optician will also tailor your examination according to your vision quality and the condition of your eyes. Here are some of the most basic procedures you can expect during an eye examination:

History and Symptoms

At the beginning of your appointment, your optometrist is likely to ask whether you have been experiencing any problems with your eyes or whether you have a history of problems. If you have been visiting the same opticians for a while then they are likely to already have a document of your history and might not ask you about this.

If you do have problems with your eyes then your optician will ask whether you have noticed any changes, deterioration or if any new symptoms have appeared. If you already wear glasses or contact lenses then you will be asked about these and your optician may also enquire what kind of work you do or whether you play any sports.

You’ll further need to tell your optician about your general health and whether you are taking any medication.

Examining Your Eyes

Your optician will look at your eyes from the outside and the inside to assess their health and to check for any indications of health problems. During this examination you may experience some or all of these tests:

  • A non-contact tonometer machine blows puffs of air into each of your eyes in turn. This air bounces back towards the instrument to give a measurement of the pressure inside your eyes. High pressure can indicate sight conditions or the early stages of glaucoma.
  • An autorefractor machine measures the ability of your eyes to focus at different distances. Your opticians will use the results of this test to comprise your prescription.
  • A retiniscope is a small instrument that bounces light beams off the back of your eyes to help gauge an accurate guide of your focus and the prescription that you need.
  • A test chart helps the optometrist to fine-tune his/her findings. You will be asked to read letters on the chart while looking through different strengths of lenses. This can also help to differentiate the prescription that is needed per eye. The optometrist will use different lenses to discover which strength provides you with the clearest vision.
  • An opthalmoscope resembles a small torch and is used to look at the retina at the back of the eye as well as the optic nerve and the blood vessels. This test can spot indications of diseases or high blood pressure.
  • You may be asked to focus your eyes on an oxo box which is placed on the wall and to state whether the lines appear horizontal or vertical. This test shows whether your eyes work well in coordination.
  • If you wear contact lenses then you are likely to undergo the slit lamp test. This equipment includes an illuminated microscope which looks closely at the outer surface of your eye to examine for any abnormalities.
  • Visual field screening equipment is a box you are asked to look into. Dots of light will randomly appear and you will be asked to press a button every time you notice one. Failure to recognise a dot can indicate that there is a blind spot in your vision.

After the Eye Examination

When the examination is complete your optometrist will discuss any findings and advise on the next step. If you need vision correction in the form of glasses or contact lenses then you’ll be given an up-to-date prescription and your optometrist will discuss your options to help you find a solution that will suit your lifestyle and vision needs.

If the test indicates a more serious eye or health problem then your optometrist will refer you to an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) or the hospital.

Before you leave you’ll also be told when you should next make an appointment for an eye examination.

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