Your eye health is one of many health issues you must keep up with. As you age, the likelihood of vision problems increases, especially in people who have a family history of certain eye diseases. What’s involved in routine or comprehensive eye exams? Learn what you can expect from your exam before you schedule your appointment at Southside Medical Center in Atlanta, GA.
What Is Included in a Routine Eye Exam?
Routine eye exams will assess most of the major functions and structures of your eye to screen for any obvious vision abnormalities or eye health disorders. Most of the time, a routine exam can be completed in under an hour. The most common tests included in a routine eye exam include:
First, an optometrist will perform several basic tests to screen for major vision irregularities. These basic tests include a peripheral vision test, a color sensitivity test, and a cover test that will assess the range and visual clarity of your eyes. A routine exam will also include a glaucoma air puff test to assess eye pressure.
Slit Lamp Test
A slit lamp test uses a special tool called a biomicroscope that will shine a vertical light over your eye. This test is designed to detect structural abnormalities on your cornea, eye lens, and iris.
Pupillary Reaction Test
A pupillary reaction test also uses light to assess the responsiveness of your eye. Healthy eyes will respond to changes in light, so if your eye does not automatically dilate in bright light, this could be a sign of an eye issue. During the pupillary reaction test, your doctor will also examine the surface of your eye to look for signs of dry eye, scratches on the cornea, and bacteria.
Visual Acuity and Refraction Test
During a routine exam, it’s common for doctors to assess the accuracy of your vision, even if you don’t think you have any vision problems. Basic visual acuity exams, such as reading letters from a distance, can give optometrists a good idea of your ballpark vision.
Pupil Dilation Test
The last test involved in a routine eye exam is the pupil dilation test, which is designed to assess your retina and optic nerve. For this test, eye drops will be used to dilate your eyes, so the optometrist can have a better look at your retina and optic nerve with a special scope. For some patients, a pupil dilation test is optional. You will need to avoid sunlight after this test for about an hour.
What Is Involved in a Diabetic Eye Exam?
People who have been diagnosed with diabetes will need to have eye exams more frequently than other people. This is because high sugar in the blood can cause damage to the blood vessels, including the blood vessels in your eye. If diabetes is affecting the blood vessels in your eye, you could develop diabetic retinopathy, which occurs in about 30% of diabetic people. Diabetic macular edema is another complication of diabetes.
During a diabetic eye exam, an optometrist will perform specific tests to assess the health of your retina, optic nerve, and blood vessels. A pupil dilation test is a basic test that will determine whether you need advanced tests, such as a fluorescein angiography that detects blood vessel damage. A glaucoma test and an optical coherence tomography may also be performed.
What Happens During a Dry Eye Exam?
Having dry eyes can be annoying. Whether dry eye is caused by allergies, eye strain, medications, or issues with tear production, dry eye can be uncomfortable and can increase the risk of developing eye infections. If you have dry eyes, an optometrist will likely perform a Schirmer’s test, which will assess your level of tear production by using paper tissues placed in your lower lids.
What Are Common Eye Disorders and Diseases?
There are several eye disorders and diseases that can develop in otherwise healthy individuals. Although some medical conditions, such as diabetes, make it more likely to develop eye disorders or diseases, there are many healthy people who gradually develop vision problems even without a history of eye disease due to factors such as aging. Some of the most common disorders and diseases include:
Macular degeneration is most commonly associated with the aging process. This is a gradual eye disease that reduces central vision by damaging the center area of the retina. Macular degeneration can be caused by the growth of abnormal blood vessels or by the thinning of the macula. The main symptoms of macular degeneration include blurred central vision, the appearance of wavy or curved lines when lines should be straight, and dark spots in the center of your vision.
Cataracts are the most common cause of blindness. While cataracts can occur at any age, the development of cataracts is more common for people 50 and older. Cataract symptoms can include cloudy vision, blurring vision, poor night vision, light sensitivity, and changes in color perception.
Glaucoma develops when there is a high level of fluid pressure in the eye, which can damage the optic nerve and affect the way the brain interprets visual information. Glaucoma is another leading cause of vision loss. The symptoms of glaucoma include headaches, red eyes, rainbow halos around lights, low vision, tunnel vision, blind spots, and eye pain or eye pressure.
Retinal detachment is a serious condition that may occur when there is a tear in the retina. When the retina tears, the fluid in the center of the eye can travel to the back of the retina to push the retina away from the eye. If left untreated, this condition can cause blindness. Some symptoms of retinal detachment include light flashes, dark spots, and the darkening of part of your visual field.
Refractive errors are eye conditions that make it difficult to properly focus the eye. A refractive error happens when light passes through the cornea and lens with an improper bend that distorts vision. Refractive errors can include nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. Many people use corrective lenses or corrective eye surgery to reduce refractive errors.
Amblyopia is a childhood eye condition that occurs when one eye is not working properly with the brain. Also called lazy eye, this condition will reduce visual acuity in the affected eye.
Conjunctivitis is a common eye disease that is caused by the inflammation of the tissue on the inside of the eyelid and the outer eye. This is a contagious eye disease that can cause blurry vision, itchy eyes, and excessive tearing. It’s best to visit an optometrist for treatment if conjunctivitis develops, since a doctor can prescribe antibiotic eye drops to reduce inflammation and bacteria in the eye.
Are Eye Disorders or Diseases Genetic?
Some eye disorders or diseases are genetic. According to research, about 70% of congenital blindness in infants is inherited, including congenital cataracts, congenital glaucoma, optic atrophy, and retinal degeneration. Studies also suggest that refractive errors, like nearsightedness, are inherited.
How Often Do You Need Eye Exams?
In general, the frequency of your exams will be determined by your age. Children who are three years old or younger will usually have one eye exam as a toddler to assess for any issues with eye development, particularly childhood eye disorders. Adolescent children may need to complete exams every year while they are still in school.
Adults who have no history of vision problems will only need a complete eye exam by age 40. Adults who do have a history of vision or eye health problems may need to schedule exams every few years. For adults over the age of 60, exams should be scheduled every two years. People who wear glasses may need to have exams more frequently, as well as people with a family history of vision loss and people who have been diagnosed with diabetes.
Don’t Wait to Schedule Eye Exams
Maintaining your eye health is essential to maintaining your overall health. After around age 40, vision problems are more likely to develop, even in people who have had healthy eyes and no vision problems throughout their lives. If you’re ready to schedule a comprehensive eye exam, diabetic eye exam, or another type of eye exam, get in touch with Southside Medical Center in Atlanta, GA today.