Visiting the Eye Doctor (cont.)

What Kind of Tests and Procedures Will They Do?

Your eye assessment should be complete, including:

  • An examination of the interior and exterior of your eye. The doctor will check for signs of eye disease or general health problems, such as diabetes or hardening of the arteries that may show up initially in the eyes. Adults will be checked for eye pressure and field of vision to help diagnose glaucoma.

  • A test of your visual acuity or ability to see sharply and clearly at near and far distances. Various tests can be used to determine the visual acuity of infants, children, and adults. These are fairly simple and can be performed by an ophthalmologist, optometrist, technician, nurse, or optician. They do not, however, test for important functions of sight, such as depth perception or color blindness. These are noninvasive, painless, and reliable and can be performed in a doctor's office, at school, or at home. One common type of test used for children or adults who cannot yet read is the Random E's Visual Acuity Test. The patient is asked to identify the direction that the letter "E" opens to by holding out 4 fingers to mimic the letter "E." This test is safe, there are no risks involved, and it works just as well as most other tests.

  • Tests to determine the presence of nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, depth perception problems, and, in people over age 40, presbyopia (an age-related condition affecting reading vision).

  • A test determining eye coordination and eye muscle function. This confirms that the eyes are working properly together.

  • A test of the ability to change focus easily from near to far, and then far to near.
The results will give your eye health professional information about your overall eye health, your sight, and what prescription you will need to correct your vision.

How Long Will the Visit Take?

For your first visit, allow two hours. That includes time to sign in, be examined by the doctor, and also be fitted for your prescription, if necessary. From then on, your visits may be shorter simply because you may want to use the same frames and your information will already be on file.

When Should You See a Specialist?

You should see a specialist when referred by your physician or eye health provider for specific eye concerns. There is a wealth of information about the eyes and visual system. Specialists, because of the scope of their focus, can better pinpoint disease-related problems.

How Often Should You Go to the Eye Doctor?

You should visit your eye health care provider at least once per year, or immediately if you have any degree of sudden vision loss, eye pain, or irritation.

Should People With Certain Diseases See Their Eye Doctor More Often?

  • People with diabetes should see their doctor more frequently as recommended by their diabetes specialist. There are complications of diabetes associated with blindness, and early detection can prevent loss of sight, which may be irreversible.

  • People with a family history of eye diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, and corneal diseases should also see their doctor more frequently as they age.
As with any disorder, there is a higher risk of certain eye disorders if someone in your family has had that eye problem.

Does Health Insurance Cover the Cost of the Appointment?

Most vision health coverage plans will cover a portion or all of the expenses associated with vision care. It is best to check with your health insurance provider to determine the limits of your coverage. If you do not have vision health insurance, some doctors may work with you to set up an affordable payment plan.

Having a complete exam with an eye specialist every one to two years is important because most eye diseases can be treated when found in an early stage. If you have health problems such as diabetes, you may need to visit your eye doctor more frequently to detect any complications.

Reviewed by the doctors at The Cleveland Clinic Cole Eye Institute.

Edited by Charlotte E. Grayson, MD, WebMD, October 2004.

Last Editorial Review: 6/29/2005