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What happens during an eye exam or vision test?

A vision test or eye exam is a painless exam your optometrist or ophthalmologist will do to be sure your eyes and vision are healthy. It includes tests to check for general vision problems, such as nearsightedness or farsightedness, as well as more serious eye problems, such as glaucoma, cataracts or age-related macular degeneration. Guidelines for the frequency of exams vary, but are typcally based on age, condition of the eyes, and existing risk factors. Here are some general guidelines for when to get eye exams:

  • Children: every 1 to 2 years, starting in early childhood
  • Adults under 40: every 5 to 10 years
  • Adults 40 to 54: every 2 to 4 years
  • Adults 55 to 64: every 1 to 3 years
  • Adults 65 and older: every 1 to 2 years

Your eye doctor may suggest more or less frequent visits. If you wear contacts, or have an eye disorder or a health condition, ask your doctor if you need more frequent eye exams.

Your ophthalmologist and his or her assistants ask about your current symptoms and review your medical history. Eyedrops to dilate your eyes may or may not be used during the exam.

The examination typically evaluates:

  • Visual acuity
  • Need for eyeglasses or contact lenses (refraction)
  • Eyelid health and function
  • Coordination of eye muscles
  • Pupil response to light
  • Side (peripheral) vision
  • Intraocular pressure (pressure inside the eye)
  • The anterior segment in the eye (the area in front of the lens, including the cornea and iris)
  • The interior and back of the eye.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.