What to Expect at the Eye Doctor

November 05, 2014

A visit to the eye doctor is probably one of the most routine physician appointments you will have. You know that you will see a technician for some preliminary tests, and then the eye doctor for some standard checks of your vision. Sometimes, however, you may have some different tests done based on your age and health. For example, if you have diabetes, your vision professional will likely do a glaucoma test. If you have a family history of macular degeneration, you may be asked to complete some special vision tests. You will feel more comfortable if you understand more about what your eye doctor is looking for with both the routine and special tests.

Family and Medical History

While this isn't a test, it is an important part of your overall exam and your physician's understanding of the potential risks to your visual health. Macular degeneration can be hereditary, as can several other ocular diseases. He or she needs to know if you've spent a lot of time in the sun without sunglasses, or if you've ever had an injury to your eyes. If you have medical conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes, they will want to be on the lookout for glaucoma or damage to blood vessels. Obtaining a thorough and accurate family and medical history helps your doctor know some potential dangers to look for and to suggest some things that may help you prevent problems to which you may be susceptible.

Visual Acuity

This involves several tests that measure how well you see and determines your prescription for glasses or contact lenses. To assess your distance vision, you will be asked to identify letters of different sizes on a chart located away from you. Your near vision also may be tested with a card containing letters at a closer distance.

Muscle Test

Your physician will ask you to follow a moving object, such as a light or a pen. He will be checking for signs of muscle weakness, poor control, or poor coordination.

Refraction assessment

Most eye doctors use a technique called retinoscopy, which involves shining a light and measuring the way light rays focus on the back of your eye. You'll also look through a mask-like device that has different power lens and indicate which combination of the lenses give you the best vision. Doing this procedure can help your physician give a prescription for the sharpest vision possible.

Peripheral (Field) Vision Tests

Your visual field is all you can see around you without moving your head. There are several ways your doctor may test this, including having you indicate when you see something come into your field of vision or when you see lights appear on a computer screen.

Retinal examination

This allows your physician to assess the retina, optic disk, and underlying layer of blood vessels. You will likely have your eyes dilated, which keeps your pupil enlarged when the doctor shines a light into it.

Regular visits to your eye doctor are important for your overall ocular health. Be sure your physician knows of any potential risks and health concerns, so he or she can come up with a vision care routine and plan that are right for you.

Bridgewater residents go to Branchburg Eye Physicians when they need a skilled eye doctor. Learn more at
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