What to Expect During an Eye Exam

Picture, in color, of an eye chart on a wall.That big 'E' on the wall of your family doctor's office is looking blurry, and you're off to your first-ever eye exam. Here's a primer on what to expect when you get there.

The tests before the tests

First, you will be pre-tested, likely by a technician or an assistant. This consists of a series of tests, which will include a 'puff test' to measure your internal eye pressure and detect glaucoma. None of this is painful or time-consuming, although the 'puff test' (a quick puff of air against the eyeball) tends to startle people.

Next you'll be introduced to the optometrist or ophthalmologist, who will take a thorough case history. This consists of asking about your main concerns, if any, as well as your general health, family history, allergies and a list of any prescription drugs you may be taking.

All together now

Then the power of your eyes is measured to determine if you require eyeglasses, and, if so, how strong. This also includes a measurement of how well your eyes work as a team.

Next, you are examined with a device called a slit lamp. This allows the doctor to examine the front of the eye including the eyelids, corneas and pupil reflexes.

Eyes wide open

You will then have drops put in your eyes to dilate your pupils. They take about 15 minutes to take effect, so you'll be seated outside the examination room while you wait. Again, this procedure doesn't hurt, but you?ll notice that your vision becomes more and more blurry as the drops do their work.

Pupil dilation allows the doctor to look inside your eyes for cataracts, macular degeneration and diabetic eye disease among other things. Be sure to bring along a pair of sunglasses for your trip home, because dilated eyes are very sensitive to light for several hours afterward.

Further testing

This is a typical exam and takes about 30 minutes in total. After the examination is finished, the doctor will review the results and talk with you about his or her recommendations.

Pediatric testing, laser surgery evaluations, contact lens consulting, glaucoma workups and other specialty testing require more time, and the doctor will advise you on this.

If you notice changes in your vision, see an eye care professional immediately. Healthy individuals should have their eyes tested regularly.