Don’t Touch My Eyes

Few people enjoy a trip to the doctor. This logic holds especially true when dealing with the eye. However, a routine eye exam can help individuals restore clear vision or uncover the beginnings of diseases. In either case, the physician can take careful action to keep the eye working as intended.

Get your things in order

Before even stepping into the clinic, gather any information that may help with the examination. A family medical history is helpful since many eye diseases are hereditary. Also, bring a list of medications, insurance information, and any corrective lenses used. Prepare to let the healthcare specialist know of any current symptoms and have a list of questions to ask.

Dilation during an exam can make the eye sensitive to light, so carry a pair of sunglasses to combat outside brightness. Those having trouble driving with dilated eyes may want to bring a friend or family member to drive after the appointment.

Before the exam

At the beginning of the visit, a technician typically performs a series of tests for the doctor to review. No two eye exams are exactly the same, but the following tests are likely to take place:

Visual Acuity Test

With one eye covered, patients will read from progressively decreasing rows of letters to determine visual acuity. 20/20 is considered normal vision.


During a refraction, the assistant sets up various lenses for the patient to look through. The patient must then decide which of the two appears more clear. This test is used to determine the ideal eye prescription for a patient.


Here, a tester will check the pressure in both eyes. One common method involves a puff of air to check eye resistance. Other clinics may mildly numb the eye and use a sensitive instrument to tap the surface.


Through different means, an expert checks how a patient’s two eyes work together. The test can detect muscle weakness or the eye’s inability to move properly.

Pupil Function

Normal pupils contract in the presence of light and expand in darkness. With a small pen light, the specialist looks to ensure pupils are performing as expected.


After this series of tests, the clinician typically places one or two drops in the eye to dilate the pupil. This allows the physician to see more easily into the back of the eye for a thorough assessment.

Slit-Lamp Exam

Once both eyes are dilated, the doctor uses a machine called a slit lamp to see the eye up close. The device allows a look at areas such as the cornea, iris, lens, and eyelid. Through magnification, diseases like cataracts and glaucoma are much easier to identify.

Retinal Exam (Ophthalmoscopy)

With the front of the eye covered, the physician turns to the back of the eye next. Many essential ocular components exist back here, including the retina, optic nerve, and blood vessels.

That wasn’t so bad after all

Due to the amount of testing involved, eye exams can take 60 to 90 minutes from start to finish. Unless there’s an underlying risk for disease, patients only need to schedule a visit once every 1 to 4 years, depending on age. With vision so important, seeing an eye doctor regularly is key.