We all rely on our eyes and the need for good eyesight for almost every aspect of our daily lives. Access to information through reading and television depends on clear vision, while life itself can depend on the ability to see properly while driving, or simply walking in busy streets.
The reason we need eye exams is that eyes, unlike teeth, don’t normally let you know in an obvious way when something is wrong. Normally sight deteriorates gradually and people genuinely don’t notice that they are not seeing as well as they could. Regular examinations are important to maintain the best available vision. This is particularly true with young children and the elderly.
More than just identifying whether your eyesight needs correcting, the eye examination can also reveal a number of other underlying health problems such as high blood pressure, glaucoma or diabetes. It is a vital health check that should be part of everyone’s normal health regime. The eye is the only part of the body where we can see blood vessels and detect healthcare signs.
Unless otherwise advised, you should have an eye examination every two years. It may be necessary to have them more frequently, depending on your age and medical history. An eye examination is carried out by an Optometrist in 30 minutes. See Ruth’s video briefing.
It is very important that your Optometrist knows why you are having your eyes examined. It may just be your routine check-up or you may be there for a specific reason such as VDU screening. If you are having an eye examination because you are experiencing problems with your eyes or vision your practitioner will need to know what symptoms you have, how long you have had them and whether any changes have happened suddenly, or slowly over a period of time.
You must also tell your practitioner if you are taking any medication. She should also be aware of other medical information, such as whether you suffer from headaches, currently wear spectacles or contact lenses, or have any close relatives with a history of eye problems.
Your eyes will be examined both internally and externally. This will enable an assessment to be made of the general health of your eyes and identify any other underlying medical problems. The interior of your eye will be examined using an instrument which shines a light through the pupil, allowing a detailed examination of the internal structures. Other tests frequently carried out are, for example, those for glaucoma (including pressures and visual fields) or colour vision deficiencies.
Measurements will be taken of your vision when you are not wearing spectacles or contact lenses to assess your visual status. Children of any age can be examined, as we can offer Makaton or a shape matching game for children and adults who don’t know their letters. For infants we use preferential viewing techniques which relies on reflexes to look at a pattern in preference to a blank screen.
These are checked to make sure that both eyes are working together effectively and that undue stress is not being placed on them. This is particularly important for those who use VDUs.
Additional information to assess your individual needs depends on your occupation, whether you play sports or have any hobbies. Your Optometrist will now have a detailed knowledge of the health of your eyes, how good your vision is, and any special requirements you may need. This information will be explained to you, but remember, if you don’t understand anything or require more information please ask.
At the end of the eye examination you will be advised when you should return for your next appointment.