Comprehensive Eye Examination

A comprehensive eye examination does more than determine how clearly you see, and which lens prescription will give you the best possible vision. Your eye doctor will also carefully evaluate the health and function of your entire eye.

At your initial visit, a technician will ask questions about you and your family’s medical history, and any existing eye problems. If you wear contact lenses or glasses, bring them with you. Your eye doctor will check them to make sure that they are the correct lenses for your eyes.

A complete eye examination may include the following:

A visual acuity test to measure how well you can see at distance and up close. Covering one eye at a time, you will look at an eye chart and be asked to identify letters that get smaller as you read farther down the chart.

A refraction to determine the correct contact lens or glasses prescription, if needed. Your eye doctor will finalize your prescription by asking you to look through a device called a phoropter that has many different lenses in it. You will be asked to compare a series of two lens choices and evaluate which lens combination provides you with your best possible vision correction.

An eye motility evaluation to look for eye muscle weakness or imbalance. Your eye doctor will have you follow the movement of an object in many directions, and may perform more detailed testing.

A pupil test. This is performed with a bright light to evaluate the eye’s response to light stimulation.

A peripheral vision test, which examines what you are able to see to the sides when you look straight ahead. You may be asked to cover one eye at a time and, while looking straight ahead, tell your eye doctor when you can see his or her hand or other object as it moves inward from outside your visual field. Sometimes a special instrument might be used to test your visual field. If so, you will look straight ahead into a special device, often a lighted bowl-shaped instrument, and press a button each time you see a flash of light. Your eye doctor can use your responses to see if there are any blind spots in your visual field.

A slit-lamp microscopic examination to evaluate the front part of your eye, including the cornea, iris, and lens. The slit lamp greatly magnifies your eye structures, revealing abnormalities such as cataracts. Before the test, you may be given eyedrops with fluorescein, an orange dye, to make your cornea easier to see. This dye will wash away naturally.

A glaucoma evaluation. Your eye doctor or technician will use a tonometer to measure your intraocular pressure. You will receive an eye drop containing an anesthetic and fluorescein dye to numb the front surface of your eye; then a manual tonometer will gently touch your cornea. This procedure is quick and painless, and the anesthetic will wear off in 15 or 20 minutes. Your eye doctor may also use pachymetry to measure the thickness of your cornea, which helps evaluate the accuracy of your intraocular pressure measurement. After applying numbing eyedrops, a technician will use ultrasonic waves to measure your corneal thickness.

A retinal examination to evaluate the structures in the back of your eye. This usually requires pupil dilation which is performed with eye drops. Click here for more information about pupil dilation. Your eye doctor will shine a light in your eye and use a device called an ophthalmoscope to look at the back of your eye. Your doctor may also use a much brighter light mounted on the forehead to examine your eye. Retinal examinations take several minutes, but the eyedrops may continue to blur your vision for hours. You may not be able to drive and will be sensitive to bright light. We strongly recommend you bring a driver if you are having your eyes dilated!