What is an eyesight test?
Eyesight plays such an important role in daily life, from reading to driving to browsing the web, so protecting your eyes is vital. Making regular appointments with an optometrist ensures you stay on track with your eye health.
There are a number of eyesight tests (or eye exams) that can be performed. Let's take a closer look!
The visual acuity test (performed with the 'Big E' or 'Snellen' chart, like in the image below) is the most common – this is the one where you sit in a chair and read letters from a chart that is a small distance away, the letters start off really big and reduce in size as they near the bottom. The optometrist will run this test on each eye by covering the other eye. This test helps to determine how each eye’s level of vision compares to the standard 20/20 complete vision.
Another eyesight test performed is a retinoscopy – this allows the optometrist to ensure a correct lens prescription for your glasses or contacts. As you focus on an object, the optometrist will shine a light into your eyes and conclude how it affects the way your eyes process the light. This test shouldn't cause any pain, so let your optometrist know if you experience any discomfort.
A refraction test is another common test undertaken. This test also helps the optometrist to access your eyeglasses or contact lens prescription – the optometrist will put a device in front of your eyes and replace the lenses to be stronger or weaker, depending on your answer when they ask ‘Is it clearer with lens 1 or 2?’. Don't worry, there is no right or wrong answer here! This test will help determine if you are nearsighted (can see items clearly up close but not far), farsighted (can see things clear from afar but are blurry when brought closer) or have astigmatism (which is when the abnormal curvature of the eye creates two focal points to point in two separate locations.)
Knowing what happens in our peripheral vision is just as important as knowing what happens inside the eye, which is why a peripheral visual field test is carried out. There are a few ways this eye test can be carried out; automated perimetry, tangent screen exam or a confrontation visual field exam. Your optometrist will decide which test to use.
When should I get an eyesight test done?
In general, regular eyesight tests should be done at least every 2 years. However, this depends on factors including age, current health and any predetermined risks of developing eye problems. Frequent testing is highly recommended for those with medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or neurological conditions. Specialists also recommend getting eyesight tests done more frequently if you already wear glasses or contact lenses, have a family history of eye disease or loss of vision, or take any medications that may have eye-related side effects. If you notice a change in your eyesight, you should get an eyesight test performed, even if it’s before the recommended 2-year time frame.
The same applies for children, eye tests every couple of years are recommended, but if your child complains of vision problems or you suspect your child cannot see well, make an appointment for them straight away.
What should I expect from an eyesight test?
An eyesight test is nothing to be afraid of and should not be painful. The optometrist will start off by asking about your medical history, family history and about any vision problems you may be experiencing. A clinical assistant may perform some diagnostic tests before seeing the optometrist – these tests will give the optometrist an insight into the health of your eyes. The optometrist will then take that data and see what further tests may be required – this will most commonly be testing your vision with the “Big E”/”Snellen” chart, and testing your eyes reaction to light and muscle co-ordination.
Generally speaking, these eyesight tests should be enough to test your vision, however depending on a number of circumstances, further eyesight testing may be required, which can some times even include eyedrops in your eye to dilute the pupil to see a more in-depth picture of the eye.
There is nothing you need to do to prepare for an eyesight test. However, make sure you have as much information as you can about; your health background, any pre-existing family conditions, what medication you take (name, dosage and how long you have been on them) and if/when you first started to notice your vision changing. When attending an eye exam please bring; your Medicare and private health find card (if you have one), any existing glasses or contact lenses you are using, sunglasses (sometimes optometrists use drops that can cause temporary light sensitivity), and a list of any allergies or medications (if applicable).
Whilst it can be confronting going to get your eye health checked, it is an important part of your overall well-being. Look after your eyes now is an investment in your future.