What happens during an eye test?

An eye examination with an optometrist is very straight forward. 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".

There are three main parts to an eye examination:

  • A check of the outside of your eye including your eye movements.
  • Tests to check if the inside of your eye is healthy.
  • Tests to work out if you need new glasses or contact lenses.

The eye examination will include some or all of the following, and your optometrist should explain the tests as they go along:

  • Reading letters on a chart. For those who are not able to read, there are other tests such as identifying pictures or matching letters and pictures.
  • Your optometrist will look inside your eye using an ophthalmoscope. This will mean them coming very close to you and shining a bright light into your eye while they ask you to look in different directions. This test checks the health of the inside of your eye.
  • Your optometrist will check that the muscles that control your eye movements are working well.
  • Looking at letters on a chart through various lenses in a special frame or machine.
  • Checking the pressure in your eyes, usually with the 'puff of air' test. This helps to detect glaucoma or problems with eye pressure.

After your eye examination

At the end of the test, the optometrist should:

  • explain anything that they may have found
  • tell you if you need different glasses because your prescription has changed, and how much it has changed
  • tell you if you need new glasses
  • tell you if they have found signs of an eye condition.

If you need new glasses, the optometrist will give you the prescription for the lens. This means you don't have to buy your glasses at the same optometrist where you had your eyes tested - you can shop around if you want to.

If your optometrist thinks you need to be seen at the hospital, 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. The arrangements for referring you may depend on where you live.

For further information and advice about eye tests and other topics please contact our Helpline on:

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