Not only are our eyes important to comprehend the world around us, but they are a view into the health of the entire body. So, it’s somewhat amazing at how little people worry about checking on the health of their eyes. When you get right down to it, most people are more concerned with the arbitrary 3,000-mile oil changes supposedly needed by their cars. It’s a dangerous thing to take your eyesight for granted.
The teams at our two Wilkinson Eye Center locations are not simply pushing for you to come in for random checkups. It’s based on our knowledge that many eye conditions don’t exhibit any symptoms until they are already causing permanent damage to your vision. Glaucoma, for instance, builds the pressure inside your eye, but shows no symptoms until you begin to notice a decrease in your peripheral vision.
We take your comprehensive eye exams very seriously at Wilkinson because we’re not simply seeing if your refractive errors have changed, we’re also looking for early signs of various eye diseases and other health concerns that are first visible when our physicians look in your eyes.
Here’s what we cover in our comprehensive eye exams.
What is tested in a comprehensive eye exam?
Eye exams are so much more than simply telling a person he or she has 20/20 or 20/100 vision. We take pride in our thoroughness and continually upgrade the technology of our testing equipment to not only allow us to check your refraction quality, but more importantly, to look for the early signs of any type of disease.
Here is a list of what we test:
- Refraction assessment — As light enters the front of your eyes, the rays are bent as they reach the retina in the back of the eye. If the light rays aren’t focused onto the proper spot, you have a refractive error, things like nearsightedness and farsightedness. Glasses or contact lenses correct these errors. To fine tune the amount of error and correction we use a phoropter, where alternate lenses are rotated in front of your eyes to find which correction gives you the best vision.
- Visual acuity test — This old standby test uses an alphabet eye chart, also called the Snellen chart. We have you cover one eye and read the letters that get progressively smaller the farther down you read.
- Vision field test — This determines if you have difficulty seeing in any areas of your overall field of vision. We use an automated perimetry machine where you look at a screen with blinking lights on it. You press a button each time you see a blink.
- Eye muscle test — You simply follow an object and we watch your eye movements to check for muscle weakness, poor control, or poor coordination between eyes.
- Color vision test — To test for any color vision problems, we show you several multicolored dot-pattern tests. There are numbers and shapes within the dot patterns. If you have some colorblindness, you won’t see the numbers/shapes in the dots.
- Slit-lamp examination — The slit lamp is a microscope that illuminates and magnifies the front of your eye. We examine your eyelids, lashes, cornea, iris, lens, and the fluid chamber in your eye.
- Retinal examination — Sometimes called funduscopy or ophthalmoscopy, this is the examination of the back of your eye, where the retina, optic disc, and various blood vessels are found. For this exam, we usually dilate your eye with eye drops. These keep the pupil from getting smaller when a light is shown on it.
- Glaucoma screening — Glaucoma is a disease where pressure builds inside your eyeball, intraocular pressure. This pressure damages the optic nerve and your vision. For this test, we usually use a puff of air shot onto the front of the eye. This measures the pressure in the eye.
How long does a comprehensive eye exam take?
Our comprehensive eye exams take about one hour. Eye exams for children don’t take as long.
Does insurance cover my eye exam?
Most insurance treats eye exams as preventive care and cover the exam. However, insurance plans and coverages vary widely, so it’s best to contact your carrier and find out. At Wilkinson Eye Center, we work with your insurance company to facilitate coverage.
How often should I have an eye exam?
People generally know they should see their dentist twice yearly. They know a physical is a good idea every year after your 40th birthday. But ask someone how often they should have a comprehensive eye exam and you’re likely to get a blank look. People often go a decade or more without having their eyes checked, particularly if they have good vision. This is taking a big gamble that could dramatically change your life if you lose. Particularly after the age of 40, sight-robbing conditions such as glaucoma can sneak up without you knowing it.
Here is the timeline from the American Optometric Association (AOA) for when everyone should get an eye exam:
- Children 5 years and younger — Children under three should see a pediatrician to check for the most common eye problems, such as lazy eye. Otherwise, children between 3 and 5 should see an eye doctor for their eye examination. In Michigan, children entering Kindergarten must have a complete eye exam to enter public schools.
- School-age children and teens — Your child needs his or her vision checked before they enter first grade. From there, vision should be checked every one or two years to be sure their refraction/vision correction prescription hasn’t changed.
- Adults — If you don’t have vision problems and don’t have a family history of eye disease, this is the schedule for adults:
- Every five to 10 years in your 20s and 30s
- Every two to four years from 40 to 54
- Every one to three years from 55 to 64
- Every year after age 65
These adult numbers should increase in frequency if you wear glasses or contact lenses, if you have a family history of eye disease, or if you have a chronic disease that can affect your eyes, such as diabetes.
Do eye exams have any side effects?
Eye exams are painless and without side effects. If we need to dilate your pupils so that we can better see the nerves and blood vessels in the back of the eye (to check for glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and eye tumors), you will need to have dark sunglasses for driving, as your pupils will be more sensitive to light. A recent study from UCLA showed no decline in driving ability despite pupil dilation. Still, some people may be more comfortable having someone else drive them home after dilation.