The eye test is an important health check that should be carried out annually to check on the health state of the eyes as well as check for potential deterioration in vision.
Not only can it diagnose visual problems – it is also an essental part of health screening for eye problems and diseases in general.
Really an eye exam is a series of several different tests to assess vision, the ability to focus on or see objects clearly and other conditions that pertain to the eyes.
These test are usually performed by licensedprofessionals – an ophthalmologist, optometrist or orthoptist.
Eye and vision tests are not very popular and many perceive these tests as unnecessary, but health professionals recommend that these should be taken periodically as most eye diseases, like glaucoma, are without symptoms.
Glaucoma is a disorder that permanently damages vision. It isn’t easily noticed but can be detected through eye testing. Early detection can stop its development and prevent blindness.
What to expect?
The examination involves two core parts:
1. One part is to check the health of your eyes and ocular system, and
2. the other part is to check your vision.
The first part involves the use of an ophthalmoscope to look inside the eye to view the retina and other internal structures.
This can help detect any underlying eye disease, for example cataracts or glaucoma, and also systemic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
A series of examinations are also carried out to check for signs of disease on the front of the eye, measure the visual fields and also internal eye pressures.
The second part of the examination involves a series of tests (see list below) to check the level of vision and to determine any need for glasses or contact lenses.
The goal is to determine not just the level of vision in each eye, but also how the vision in both eyes works together and balances out.
So an eye test is actually a series of tests, including:
1. Retinoscopy – identifies what kind of prescription a patient needs.
2. Refraction – fine tunes the estimated prescription and identifies whether a patient is near or far-sighted, astigmatic (blurry vision) or presbyopic (inability to focus).
3. Visual acuity – tests how clear a patient sees an object at a certain size and distance. It is composed of letters, numbers or pictures (for children).
4. Amsler grid – tests central vision; it is composed of a pattern of lines in a square formation and a spot in the middle.
5. Visual field – measures peripheral vision; consists of flashing lights.
6. Cover test – detects lazy eye syndrome, poor depth perception and other eye conditions.
7. Slit lamp test – focuses on the internal structure of the eye.
8. Tonometry – measures pressure inside the eye.
9. Dilation – checks how large a patient’s pupils are able to dilate.
10. Color vision testing – a usual test for color blindness.
Eye symptoms that need testing
Are you experiencing any of the following signs or symptoms?
1. Blurred distance vision
2. Blurred close/near vision
3. Double vision,either temporary or permanent.
4. Shadows/spots or floaters especially if has occurred recently or more frequently.
5. Pain in eye or in eye region
6. Eye or eyelid redness/inflammation
7. Change in color vision.
8. Excessive tears or the opposite eye dryness/grittiness.
If you are it is important to consult an eye care professional as soon as possible for further investigation and a full eye test.
Eye exams explained by the Mayo Clinic
How often should you test?
The frequency of getting tested varies with age and doctor’s recommendation.
Typically, children are advised to have their first test by the age of 3, once every two years, while individuals at the age of 40 are recommended to get a full eye exam every two years. Eye exams are different from eye tests in a way that techniques are more advanced and comprehensive.
Eye tests are considered important which is why in some places like the US and the UK, there are programs in which these tests are given for free to individuals who qualify.
Patients who have eye diseases such as cataracts and glaucoma, as well as those with a family history of diabetes, are also recommended to have annual or even six monthly eye check ups.
Where to get an eye test
As stated above, such tests are usually performed in clinics by licensed eye doctors.
However, anyone who is interested in checking or keeping track of their own eyesight can easily get one through quick online tests. Take note though – these free tests are not as reliable as those taken in eye clinics. They are only intended for personal use and should not replace an examination by a licensed professional.
And please remember – any significant changes in vision should be immediately reported to a doctor.