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What is a Comprehensive Eye Examination?

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Dr. Guy Eakin

In this audio presentation, Dr. Guy Eakin talks about what happens during a comprehensive eye examination. This presentation is part 4 of a 6 part series on macular degeneration.

  • Dr. Guy Eakin: Hello! I am Dr. Guy Eakin. Today, I'll be explaining what happens during a comprehensive eye exam. It's vital to have regular eye exams especially as you age or if you're in the high risk groups.

    Early discovery and treatment of macular degeneration, glaucoma and other eye diseases can make a big difference. People under the age of 65 are generally recommended to have exams at least every other year. And those 65 and older or people in the higher risk categories may be recommended by their eye care provider to have an exam annually or even more frequently.

    While most test in a comprehensive eye exam consist of the doctor looking into the interior of your eyes, two tests involves simply looking at a chart or grid. One is the familiar eye chart or visual acuity test. This measures how well you could see details at different distances by asking you to read letters or numbers of varying sizes often through a binocular like machine.

    In a test looking for age related macular degeneration or AMD, you are asked to cover one eye and stare at the black dot in the middle of a grid like the one shown This grid has a name it's called an Amsler grid. If one of the lines are missing or appear wavy, bend, crooked or discolored, it might be a sign of AMD.

    Patients diagnosed with AMD often use an Amsler grid at home to monitor their vision by doing frequent self test. You can download one online, but you may also be able to see similar effects by looking at a brick wall or bathroom tile. The secret is to check yourself on a regular basis. Some people hang an Amsler grid on their fridge or in their medicine cabinets.

    There are half a dozen or more tests the doctor may conduct by looking into your eyes. For some but not all, the doctor dilates your pupil, which helps them more fully the back of the eye. The doctor will look closely at your retina for signs of disease and will examine your optic nerve for possible damage.

    With dilation, the doctor can also use a beam of light to check your retina, blood vessels, optic disk, and other structures and may photograph these structures as well. Your eyes may remain dilated for several hours after the exam. So you should bring shaded glasses and if you can, perhaps arrange to have someone help you get home especially if you're driving.

    Another test might be used to measure the pressure inside the eye. The doctor may use drops to numb the eye surface. The more precise version of the test in which the surface of the eye is touched with a stylus usually calls for numbing. It is quick and you may not even know the test has been done, since you won't be able to feel the touch of the stylus.

    If the doctor is using the puff test in which only air touches the eye, the numbing drops are not needed. Numbing generally wears off after twenty minutes or so.

    In conclusion, getting regular eye examinations is one of the most important things you can do for your eyes. If you haven't been examined in the last year or two, why not pick up the phone and make an appointment right now.

    Your eye doctor is your partner in having the very best eyesight you can have today and for the rest of your life.

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