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During your eye examination

An eye examination with an optometrist is very straightforward. Your eye examination will probably last somewhere between 20 to 30 minutes.

Having your initial eye examination

During your eye examination you can expect the optometrist to ask a lot of questions about your general health, lifestyle, the quality of your vision and any glasses you wear. This is called "taking a history". These questions are very important. The eye examination should then include:

  • A test of your level of eyesight - you will be asked to read letters on a chart or to match symbols.
  • Checks of the outer eye to confirm the outside of your eye is healthy and that your eyes react to light.
  • Checks of the inner eye - a light will be shone into your eye and you will be asked to look in different directions.
  • Tests to confirm that the muscles that control the movement of the eyes are working well.
  • Test to work out if you need to wear glasses and what prescription these glasses need to be.

If you:

  • are over 40
  • are over 25 and of African-Caribbean origin
  • have a close relative with glaucoma
  • are diabetic

Then you should also have:

  • a basic field of vision test - to test your side (peripheral) vision
  • an eye pressure test - again there are several tests for this, but the most common one involves puffs of air blown at the front of each eye. It does not hurt but will probably make you jump.

Some optometrists may use some additional tests such as retinal photographs and Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT). These tests are not essential but add further peace of mind and provide a useful baseline for following year's tests.

After your eye examination

At the end of the test, the optometrist should:

  • explain the results of your test
  • tell you if your spectacle prescription has changed and whether you need new spectacles.
  • tell you whether your eyes are healthy
  • explain anything you need to do next to keep your eyes healthy or whether you need to see an eye doctor.

If your optometrist thinks you need further eye health investigation, they will arrange for your referral in the most appropriate way. This may be with a letter to your GP to arrange an appointment at the hospital, or with a letter for you to take to the local Accident and Emergency department if they think you need to be seen quickly. Some areas have MEC schemes (Minor Eye Condition) where you may be referred to another optometrist to do further tests to decide whether you need to see an eye doctor. Some minor eye conditions can be treated by the optometrist without need of a referral to the hospital. The arrangements for referring you may depend on where you live.