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Adult Eye Exams

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During Your Eye Exam continued...

External exam and pupillary reactions: The doctor will watch the reactions of your pupils to light and objects at close distance. At the same time, the doctor will check the exterior eye, looking at things such as the condition of the white of the eyes and the position of your eyelids.

Visual acuity test: You'll sit in front of an eye chart, with letters that get smaller as you read down each line. You cover each eye in turn and, using the other eye, read aloud, going down the chart, until you can't read the letters anymore.

Retinoscopy: The eye doctor may shine a light in your eyes and flip lenses in a machine (phoropter) that you look through while staring at a large target, such as a big "E," or the doctor may use an automated machine (refractor) for the same purpose. By checking the way light reflects from your eyes, the doctor gets an approximate idea of the lens prescription you need now.

Refraction testing: For your exact lens prescription, the eye doctor may use the results of the computerized refractor, or he or she may fine-tune the prescription manually by asking you to respond to questions such as, "Which is better, this or that?" while flipping back and forth between different lenses. If you don't need corrective lenses, you won't have this test.

Slit lamp (biomicroscope): The slit lamp magnifies and lights up the front of your eye. The eye doctor uses it to detect several eye diseases and disorders by examining your cornea, iris, lens, and anterior chamber.

Retinal examination (ophthalmoscopy): Using an ophthalmoscope and pupil dilation, the eye doctor examines the back of your eyes: retina, retinal blood vessels, vitreous, and optic nerve head.

Glaucoma testing: This tests whether the fluid pressure inside your eyes is within a normal range. Painless and taking just a few seconds, the test can be done several ways.

  • The tonometer test: This is the most accurate. With drops numbing your eyes, you stare directly ahead. The eye doctor barely touches the front surface of each eye with an instrument called an applanation tonometer or Tonopen  to measure the pressure.
  • The "puff of air" or non-contact tonometer test: While you focus on a target, you get a small "puff" of air in each eye. Resistance to the air puff indicates the pressure.

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