What Is a Standard Ophthalmic Exam?
A standard ophthalmic exam is a
comprehensive series of tests done by an ophthalmologist. An
ophthalmologist is a doctor who specializes in eye health. These tests check
both your vision and the health of your eyes.
Why Do I Need an Ophthalmic Exam?
According to the Mayo Clinic,
children should undergo their first exam between the ages of three and five.
Children should also get their eyes checked before they begin first grade and should
continue to get eye exams every one to two years. Adults with no vision
problems should have their eyes checked every five to 10 years. Beginning at
age 40, adults should have an ophthalmic exam every two to four years. After
age 65, get an exam yearly (or more if you have any issues with your eyes or
Those with eye disorders should check
with their doctor about frequency of exams.
How Do I Prepare for an Ophthalmic Exam?
There’s no special preparation needed
prior to the test. After the exam, you may need someone to drive you home if
your doctor dilated your eyes and your vision hasn’t yet returned to normal.
Bring sunglasses to your exam; after dilation, your eyes will be very
light-sensitive. If you don’t have sunglasses, the doctor’s office will provide
you with something to protect your eyes.
What Happens During an Ophthalmic Exam?
Your doctor will take a complete eye
history including your vision problems, any corrective methods you have (e.g.,
glasses or contact lenses), your overall health, family history, and current
They’ll use a refraction test to check
your vision. A refraction test is when you look through a
device with different lenses at an eye chart 20 feet away to help determine any
They’ll also dilate your eyes with eye
drops to make pupils larger. This helps your doctor view the back of the eye.
Other parts of the exam may include checking your three-dimensional vision
(stereopsis), checking your peripheral vision to see how well you see outside
of your direct focus, and checking the health of your eye muscles.
Other tests include:
- examination of your pupils with a light to see
if they respond properly
- examination of your retina with a lighted
magnifying lens to see the health of blood vessels and your optic nerve
- a slit lamp test, which uses another lighted
magnifying device to check your eyelid, cornea, conjunctiva (thin membrane
covering the whites of the eyes), and iris
- tonometry, a glaucoma test in which a painless
puff of air blows at your eye to measure the pressure of the fluid within your eye
- a colorblindness test, in which you look at
circles of multicolored dots with numbers, symbols, or shapes in them
What Do the Results Mean?
Normal results mean that your doctor
detected nothing abnormal during your exam. Normal results indicate that you:
- have 20/20 (normal) vision
- can differentiate colors
- have no signs of glaucoma
- have no other abnormalities with the optic
nerve, retina, and eye muscles
- have no other signs of eye disease or conditions
Abnormal results mean that your doctor
detected a problem or a condition that may need treatment, including:
- vision impairment requiring corrective
eyeglasses or contact lenses
- astigmatism, a condition that causes blurry
vision due to the shape of the cornea
- a blocked tear duct, a blockage of the system
that carries tears away and causes excess tearing)
- lazy eye, when the brain and eyes do not work
together (common in children)
- strabismus, when the eyes don’t align properly
(common in children)
Your test may also reveal more serious
conditions. These can include
- Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD). This is
a serious condition that damages the retina, making it difficult to see
- Cataracts, or a clouding of the lens with age
that affects vision, are also a common condition.
Your doctor may also discover a corneal abrasion (a
scratch on the cornea that may cause blurry vision or discomfort), damaged
nerves or blood vessels, diabetes-related damage (diabetic retinopathy), or glaucoma.