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.

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:

  • Tests to check 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 through various lenses, using a special frame or machine. If you are not able to read, there are other tests such as identifying pictures or matching letters and pictures
  • A 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
  • A muscle control check to make sure your eye movements are working right
  • A pressure check, 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 and:

  • 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. 

It is advised by the College of Optometrists that you have your glasses dispensed at the practice where you have your eyes tested. This means that any problems with the glasses are easier to resolve. You are entitled to take it to another opticians practice if you want to, but this may result in difficulties if something goes wrong.

If your optometrist thinks you need to be seen at the hospital, they will arrange a referral in the most appropriate way. They may write a letter to your GP so they can arrange an appointment at a hospital, or if they think you need to been seen quickly, they will give you a letter to take to your local Accident and Emergency department. Arrangements for referring you may be different depending on where you live.

Further information on eye examinations can be found on RNIB's Eye Examinations webpages.

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