A standard ophthalmic exam is a series of tests done to check your vision and the health of your eyes.
First, you will be asked if you are having any eye or vision problems. You will be asked to describe these problems, how long you have had them, and any factors that have made them better or worse.
Your history of glasses or contact lenses will also be reviewed. The eye doctor will then ask questions about your overall health, including any medications you take and your family's medical history.
Next, the doctor will check your vision (visual acuity) using a Snellen chart.
Other parts of the exam include tests to:
To see inside your eye, the doctor looks through a magnifying glass that has a light on the end (an ophthalmoscope). The device allows the doctor to see the retina and nearby blood vessels, back of the eye (fundus), and optic nerve area.
Often, you'll be given eye drops to open up (dilate) your pupils so that the doctor can view the structures in the back of the eye.
Another magnifying device called a slit lamp is used to:
Make an appointment with an eye doctor (some take walk-in patients). Avoid eye strain on the day of the test. You may need someone to drive you home if the doctor uses eye drops to dilate your pupils.
The tests cause no pain or discomfort.
All children should have vision screening in a pediatrician's or family practitioner's office around the time when they learn the alphabet, and then every 1 to 2 years afterward. Screening should begin sooner if any eye problems are suspected.
Between ages 20 and 39:
Adults over age 40 who have no risk factors or ongoing eye conditions should be screened:
Depending on your risk factors for eye diseases and your current symptoms or illnesses, your eye doctor may recommend that you have exams more often.
Various eye and medical problems can be found by a routine eye test, including:
Abnormal results may be due to:
This list may not include all possible causes of abnormal results.
If you received drops to dilate your eyes for the ophthalmoscopy, your vision will be blurred and sunlight can damage your eye. Wear dark glasses or shade your eyes to avoid discomfort until the dilation wears off, usually in several hours.
Many eye diseases, especially glaucoma and retinal detachment, are curable or can be treated if detected early.
Routine eye examination; Eye exam - standard; Annual eye exam
Dermer JL. Eye movements and positions. In: Tasman W, Jaeger EA, eds. Duane's Ophthalmology. 15th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & wilkins; 2009:chap 2.
American Academy of Ophthalmology Preferred Practice Patterns Committee. Preferred Practice Pattern Guidelines. Comprehensive Adult Medical Eye Evaluation. San Francisco, CA: American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2010. Accessed January 17, 2011.
Olitsky SE, Hug D, Smith LP. Examination of the eye. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 618.
Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; and Franklin W. Lusby, MD, Ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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