The Eye Exam Demystified

While you may not look forward to your annual health exams, including eye exams, it's important for maintaining your well-being.

These tips can help you know what to expect on your next eye exam.

Before: Whether you’re having an annual exam or a glaucoma screening, skip alcohol, which can dilate blood vessels, and rest your eyes the day before (avoid a late night of computer work). Book your appointment in the morning, when eye pressure is higher, making it easier to detect problems, says Sanjay Asrani, an associate professor of ophthalmology and a glaucoma specialist at the Duke Eye Center, in Durham, N.C. Bring a list of all medications you’re taking and your glasses.

During: You’ll look at charts with letters and numbers to assess your vision. Your eyes may be dilated with drops. During a glaucoma test, when the eyes’ internal pressure is measured and your peripheral vision is checked, you’ll press a clicker when you see a flashing light (the visual field test).

After: The dilation of your eyes may take a few hours to wear off. Have a friend take you home or to work, and wear sunglasses outside, since your eyes might be light-sensitive. Your eyes may feel tired and heavy after a glaucoma screening.

When your eyes should be tested

Early detection, through regular and complete eye exams, is the key to protecting your vision. It is important to have your eyes examined regularly.

You should get a baseline eye screening at age 40. Early signs of eye disease and changes in vision may start to occur at this age. Your eye doctor will tell you how often to have follow-up exams based on the results of this screening. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or a family history of glaucoma, you should see an eye doctor now to determine how often to have eye exams.