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Everyone needs an annual eye exam. You must get one to make sure your eyes are healthy, and to see if you need a new or adjusted prescription on your glasses or contact lenses. Ideally, everyone should start getting annual eye exams in childhood. Even babies can get their eyes examined at a qualified optometrist.
If you or your child have never had an eye exam, you may be wondering what to expect. The good news is that eye exams are non-invasive, and are incredibly predictable from year to year. What goes into them does not change much.
When you come in for your eye exam, this is what you will receive
This test is to tell whether or not you have the beginnings of glaucoma. The sooner you identify glaucoma, the sooner it can be treated, and early treatments get the best outcomes. Glaucoma is the build-up of pressure in your eye, and it can eventually damage your eyesight if left untreated. Your annual eye exam will test for this condition by using either a puff of air, or the light touch of a special probe on the surface of your eye to measure its pressure. While older people are usually more likely to get glaucoma, it can appear in younger people, too, so it is important that everyone at every age get tested at their annual exam.
Peripheral vision testing
Using a series of light flashes, which you will press a button when you see, your peripheral vision can be measured. Macular degeneration, whether age-related or genetic, can rob you of your central vision, leaving you with only peripheral vision. Other conditions of the eye can affect only the peripheral vision. This test reveals the health of your vision in all areas of sight. If something needs to be done about it, your optometrist will know what treatment will be beneficial for your condition.
During the vision test, you will be asked to read a chart of increasingly small letters with each eye, and then with both eyes. Your ability to read the lines accurately determines if you have perfect vision, or if you are nearsighted, farsighted, or have astigmatism.
If you wear glasses or contacts, or if the vision testing determines you need them, you will be tested with various lenses on each eye. You will be shown a letter or line of letters behind the lenses and asked to tell the optometrist which one of the lenses provides the clearest vision of the letters to you.
Eye pupil dilation
This is usually the last part of the eye exam. Your optometrist will put a drop of dilating solution in each eye, which will open up the pupils. Your optometrist will look in each pupil with a light, which allows the interior of the eye to be revealed. By looking in the eyes through dilation, your optometrist can tell if you are developing any other eye conditions not previously tested for, and recommend treatment for any that are discovered.
If you wear glasses or contacts, or it is determined you need them, you will leave the exam with a new, annual prescription for them, to be renewed when you come in again next year.