Eye exams: What to expect

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Eye exams: What to expect

Eye exams — whom to see, what's involved and how to prepare.

An eye exam is one of the best ways to protect your vision because it can detect eye problems at their earliest stage — when they're most treatable. Regular eye exams give your eye care professional a chance to help you correct or adapt to vision changes. And eye care specialists can give you expert tips on reducing eyestrain and caring for your eyes.

What's involved in an eye exam?

A complete eye exam involves a series of tests designed to evaluate your vision and check for eye diseases. It doesn't hurt. Your doctor may use odd-looking instruments, aim bright lights directly at your eyes and request that you look through a seemingly endless array of lenses. Each test evaluates a different aspect of your vision.

The eye exam usually begins with your doctor asking about your medical history and any vision problems you might be experiencing. Next, your eye doctor makes a quick check of your eyes using a light to ensure the exterior parts of your eyes are functioning correctly. Finally, your doctor measures your visual acuity, assesses your need for glasses and examines your eyes for signs of disease. Part of the examination, such as taking your medical history and the initial eye test, may be performed by a technician who assists your doctor.

How should you prepare for an eye exam?

If you're seeing a new eye doctor or if you're having your first eye exam, expect questions about your vision history. Your answers to these questions help your eye doctor understand your risk of eye disease and vision problems. Be prepared to give specific information, including:

  • Are you having any eye problems now?
  • Have you had any eye problems in the past?
  • Do you wear glasses or contacts now? If so, are you satisfied with them?
  • What health problems have you had in recent years?
  • Are you taking any medications?
  • Do you have any allergies to medications, food or other substances?
  • Has anyone in your family had eye problems, such as cataracts or glaucoma?
  • Has anyone in your family had diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or any other health problems that can affect the whole body?

If you wear contact lenses, bring them to your appointment. Your eye doctor will want to make sure your prescription is the best one for you. Also be prepared to remove your contacts for certain exams. Tests that use orange dye (fluorescein) to temporarily color your eye may permanently dye your contact lenses. You'll want to take them out before those types of tests.

Last Updated: 10/20/2006
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