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Comprehensive Eye Exams 101

Photo of an older lady in an eye exam

Yearly comprehensive eye exams are an important part of preventive health care.

Many eye and vision problems have no obvious signs or symptoms. Routine eye exams can help aid in early diagnosis of undetected diseases and other eye conditions, like diabetes retinopathy (diabetic damage caused by high blood sugar levels) which is the leading cause of blindness in adults over age 40! Here is what you can expect during an adult comprehensive eye exam –

Medical History

During your appointment, your doctor will take note of any vision problems you may be experiencing, and ask about other health concerns that may be affecting how well you see. They will also ask about what medications you take, if you have a family history of vision problems, and about the type of work or environmental conditions that may impact your eyesight. Having a full understanding of your medical and familial history will help your opthamologist decide what tests to perform.

Preliminary Testing

Your eye doctor may first want to look at specific aspects of your visual function like depth perception, color vision, peripheral vision, how your pupils respond to light, and eye muscle movements.

Visual Acuity

Visual acuity is a measure of how well you can see. This test is simple and is done by having you read letters off of an eye chart from far and near distances. This is where the term “20/20 vision” comes from. The results of this test are written in the form of a fraction. The top number is the standard distance at which testing is done from (20 feet) and the bottom number is the smallest letter size you were able to read. For example, someone with 20/30 visual acuity would need to be within 20 feet to see what a normal person would be able to see at 30 feet. Typical and ideal visual acuity is 20/20.


A test is performed to measure your eyes’ keratometry, or corneal curvature. This test measures the strength of your cornea in each eye, which are compared to one another. Differences in keratometry between eyes causes astigmatism. Therefore, this test is particularly critical in determining if contact lenses will fit correctly on a patient’s eye.


The refraction test is performed to determine your required lens strength to compensate for any nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. During this test, your eye doctor will use a device called a phoropter to place various lenses in front of your eye. They will then use a device called a retinoscope to measure how the lens focuses light. This is how your eyeglass prescription is determined.

Overall Eye Health

Based on the results of your previous tests and with consideration of your medical history, your eye doctor may choose to perform additional tests to assess the overall health of your eyes. Often, your eye doctor will use a painless laser to scan and image the retina or use dilating eye drops to temporarily widen your pupil. This allows them to more easily view the internal structures of your eyes. The pressure inside your eye is tested and images of your retina are taken. At this stage, your doctor can detect any eye conditions or diseases you may not otherwise be aware of.

We want our patients to have the best vision possible, and that starts with yearly comprehensive eye exams. You cannot predict when your eyes will go bad. That’s why yearly eye exams are so important, no matter how old you are or what type of vision you have. They can detect eye diseases before you have symptoms and save your ability to see. When was the last time you had a comprehensive eye exam? Make an appointment with our team of optometrists today.