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A Visit to the Eye Doctor

Think you don't need to see an eye doctor because your vision is fine? Think again.

Eye exams aren’t only for people with poor vision. They're an important way of detecting eye problems before you have symptoms. Eye doctors can also catch other health problems -- like diabetes -- early.

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If it's been more than a few years since your last appointment -- or if you've never had one -- it's time to schedule a trip to the eye doctor.

Choosing a Health Care Provider

Should you choose an optometrist (O.D.) or an ophthalmologist (MD) for your initial eye exam? If this is a completely routine, preventative eye exam you can choose either type of eye doctor based upon reputation or referral. If you have a known or suspected medical eye issue such as cataract, glaucoma, or diabetes, it is reasonable to choose an ophthalmologist (MD) for your eye exam.

What to Bring to the Eye Doctor

  • Your glasses or contacts (if you wear them)
  • You may want to not wear your contacts for a few days prior to the visit to allow for more precise measurements; ask the doctor’s office when you make the appointment.
  • A list of any health conditions or allergies
  • A list of all medications and supplements that you take
  • A list of any specific questions you have about your eye health
  • Your insurance information; most policies do not cover routine eye care, but if there is diagnosis -- such as dry eyes or glaucoma -- there may be coverage. "Vision" insurance will provide some coverage for routine eye care, but most ophthalmologists (MDs) do not participate in these types of plans.

What Will Happen During an Eye Appointment?

After filling out paperwork, you'll go to the examining room to meet the doctor. The exact type of exam will vary. But here are some things you can expect.

  • Patient history. Your doctor will ask about your general health and any family history of eye diseases.
  • Vision testing. Your doctor will check your close and distance vision. You'll read from charts of random letters. Your doctor may also test other aspects of your vision -- such as your ability to see in 3D, your peripheral (side) vision, and color perception.
  • Tonometry. Your doctor will test the pressure in your eye with a puff of air or a device called a tonometer. Tonometry tests for glaucoma.
  • Eye exam. Your doctor will closely examine the different parts of your eye. You may need drops to dilate your eyes -- to make the pupils open wide. This will help your doctor get a clear view of the inside of your eye. Dilation makes your eyes sensitive to light for a few hours. You'll need to wear sunglasses until the drops wear off. You may need someone to drive you home.
  • Other tests. Depending on your health and age, you may need other further tests or exams.

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