Comprehensive Eye Exams
You depend on your eyes every day to help you work, play and carry out countless tasks, usually without even thinking about them. If your vision is good, you may never consider getting periodic eye exams. Or, if you see an eye specialist regularly because you wear glasses or contact lenses, you may be limiting your eye exams to vision tests.
It’s a good idea to get regular comprehensive eye exams, though, because these exams go beyond simply identifying and addressing common vision impairments, such as myopia (nearsightedness) or hyperopia (farsightedness). A comprehensive eye exam is a checkup that includes screening for common eye diseases that can impair your vision and also provide warning signs of serious health conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure and rheumatoid arthritis. Spotting conditions like these during an eye exam can allow for early treatment to prevent complications that affect the patient’s overall health.
When to Have an Eye Exam
The American Optometric Association (AOA) generally recommends that people have eye exams at least once every two years—more often if a patient has vision problems, eye pain or other symptoms, a diagnosed eye disease or a family history of eye disease. Adults age 65 and older should have a comprehensive eye exam every year.
AOA guidelines call for children to receive their first comprehensive eye exam between the ages of 6 and 12 months. If, based on the family history and results of that first exam, a child is not considered at risk for development of vision problems, the child should receive another comprehensive eye exam between the ages of 3 and 5, followed by another eye checkup before entering the first grade. Many eye doctors recommend annual eye exams for school-age children because of their rapid eye development during this period and the increasing amount of time that children spend on electronic devices.
Types of Eye Specialists
There are three types of eye specialists, and the level of eye care you need will affect your choice of a practitioner. Here’s a brief look at each of these specialists:
An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who is licensed to treat eye diseases and perform surgery. This type of specialist is a medical school graduate who has received at least eight years of medical training. In many cases, an ophthalmologist will have completed up to two additional years of subspecialty fellowship training. For example, a pediatric ophthalmologist has received specialized training to diagnose and treat common childhood eye conditions, such as lazy eye or strabismus (crossed eyes).
Ophthalmologists can perform comprehensive eye exams as well as conduct routine eye exams to prescribe corrective eyeglasses or contact lenses.
Optometrists are often likened to primary care doctors when it comes to vision and eye care. To become optometrists, these professionals complete four years of postgraduate training at an optometry school, earning a doctorate in optometry. They are licensed to perform many of the same services as ophthalmologists, including vision tests, routine and comprehensive eye exams and prescribing some kinds of medication. However, optometrists generally don’t perform surgery.
An optician is a technician who has obtained specialized training and certification to fill prescriptions for corrective lenses and fit patients with eyeglasses, contact lenses and other vision-correcting devices. In many states, including Florida, opticians must be licensed. Although opticians are trained to recognize certain vision problems, they’re not authorized to conduct eye exams.
Types of Eye Exams
When you visit an optometrist or ophthalmologist for a comprehensive eye exam, you’re likely to receive multiple tests aimed at assessing your overall eye health as well as your vision. Here are some of the tests that eye doctors may include:
- Eye muscle test – Also known as an extraocular muscle function test, this exam seeks to detect any uncontrolled eye movements as the patient’s head remains stationary while moving the eyes in eight different directions.
- Visual acuity test – This assessment may be familiar to you, as it consists of using one eye at a time to read an eye chart with letters of different sizes from a distance of 20 feet. You may also be asked to read letters or numbers from a card held 14 inches from your face to assess your near vision.
- Refraction assessment – Often called a vision test, this assessment is used to determine whether you need prescription lenses to obtain normal vision and, if so, what type of prescription you need. Your eye doctor may use a computerized refractor to assess how light bends as it moves through your eye. You’ll also be seated in front of a phoropter, a piece of equipment that allows your eye doctor to change out various lenses for you to look through, one eye at a time, as you report which lenses deliver the clearest view for you.
- Visual field test – Also known as a perimetry test, this eye exam calls for patients to look at a center target inside a bowl-shaped instrument while small lights flicker in different places within the visual field. Patients press a button or clicker whenever they spot the light. This test measures a patient’s peripheral vision and can help screen for signs of glaucoma.
- Color vision test – Designed to check for signs of color blindness, this eye exam most commonly includes the “color plate test,” which involves a patient looking at a round image made up of differently colored dots. In the center is a shape or numerical figure defined by a contrasting color. If the patient can’t see it, that may be an indication of color blindness.
- Slit-lamp exam – This test uses a specialized microscope held close to a patient’s face to allow the eye doctor to get a magnified, 3D view of the eye, which can help detect any abnormalities.
- Retinal exam – As its name implies, this exam allows your eye doctor to evaluate the back of your eye, including your retina. It typically starts with eye drops to dilate your pupils. Your optometrist or ophthalmologist may use a slit-lamp microscope or a tool called an ophthalmoscope to shine light through your pupil to the back of the eye to check the condition of the retina, optic disc and blood vessels.
- Glaucoma screening – This type of eye test looks for signs of damage to the optic nerve that could lead to glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness in people age 60 and older. An eye doctor may perform a combination of several eye exams to screen for this debilitating condition. The most common are tonometry, which measures inner eye pressure, and ophthalmoscopy, for which an eye doctor uses a small device with a light on the end to examine the optic nerve through the patient’s dilated pupil.
Comprehensive Eye Exams Available to Tampa Bay Residents
Florida Medical Clinic provides a full array of eye care and corrective vision services to residents of the Tampa Bay area. Our Optometry Department boasts an accomplished team of optometrists who perform both routine and comprehensive eye exams. When called for, they work closely with our Ophthalmology Department practitioners to ensure that every patient’s eye health and vision care needs are met.
What’s more, with our network of optical centers in Tampa and Land O’ Lakes, Florida Medical Clinic makes it easy to schedule a comprehensive eye exam at a location that’s convenient for you. Contact us today for more information, or use our online form to schedule an appointment.
Proudly Serving: Land O’ Lakes, and North Tampa.