While most people think of eye exams only as the precursor to getting their eyeglass or contact lens prescription, it’s also a good idea for everyone to get a dilated eye exam. Yes, that’s the one with the eye drops that make your pupils look as big as saucers. If you are under 40 and not having issues, you should have an eye exam at least every two years. If you already use corrective eyewear, check with your doctor about when to schedule your next exam.
As you get older, you have a greater chance of having not only problems with your vision but also with eye diseases and disorders. It’s recommended that you have regular, annual eye exams over the age of 40. Please consult with your physician to be sure. Also, note that African Americans are at much greater risk for glaucoma. Patients with diabetes also need to be particularly vigilant.
A comprehensive, dilated eye exam is painless and relatively fast. However, your eyes could be sensitive to light afterward, so it’s a good idea to have someone drive you home. The exam typically includes:
Dilation enables your eye health professional to view the inside of the eye. Once dilated, each eye is examined using a special magnifying lens that provides a clear view of important tissues at the back of the eye, including the retina, the macula and the optic nerve. This is often performed in a darkened room.
Tonometry is a test to help detect glaucoma. By directing a quick puff of air onto the eye, or gently applying a pressure-sensitive tip near or against the eye, your eye care professional can detect elevated eye pressure, which can be a risk factor for glaucoma. Numbing drops may be applied to your eye for this test. No one particularly enjoys this test, but it’s literally over in the blink of an eye.
Visual field test measures your side (peripheral) vision. A loss of peripheral vision may be a sign of glaucoma.
Visual acuity test will require you to read an eye chart, which allows your eye care professional to gauge how well you see at various distances. Your doctor will also use an instrument called a phoropter that shows a series of lens choices. In addition, your doctor might use instruments called an Autorefractor and aberrometer. These are computerized machines able to measure your refractive error to determine your prescription for glasses or contact lenses.