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what's that test? - your eye examination explained

Your optometrist at Specialeyes Canberra will look at a broad range of issues during a routine eye examination.

Some are obvious, such as the update of your prescription for glasses or contact lenses if needed, taking into account your day to day work needs, hobbies and outdoor activities. Your examination will also include a general assessment of your eye health including screening for eye disease.

  • How well are you seeing?
  • How does this compare with your vision on your last visit?
  • Can vision be improved with a change of lenses?
  • Does your vision enable you to perform all the day to day tasks you enjoy or do we need to look at vocational or other aids?  For example, if you are working in an office environment are you able to maintain clear and comfortable vision in the near range for sustained periods? Do you need a slightly stronger pair of reading lenses for sewing or other fine tasks?  Do you need prescription sunglasses for outside activities, contact lenses for active sports?
  • Is your corrected vision normal for your age or are there anomalies we need to investigate further?

Other parts of the examination have a less obvious explanation.

  • For instance, you may wonder why we ask about your general health and medications.  Many common diseases can have an affect on our eyes, either directly (like diabetes and blood pressure) or indirectly through side effects of medications. Even commonly used over the counter drugs like paracetamol and ibuprofen may cause ocular side effects when taken as part of a pain management programme.
  • Your family history of eye disease is another area we need to be aware of.  Many of the common eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma can have a genetic or familial component.

A thorough history in conjunction with your examination will enable your optometrist to give you appropriate advice on other precautions you should be taking (for example the wearing of sunglasses, use of supplements and dietary changes, giving up smoking) or in some instances referral on to other practitioners for further investigation.

When and why do we take photos?

  • Your optometrist may recommend taking photos of the inside of your eyes, particularly if there is anything unusual noted during the examination.
  • Where there is a family history of glaucoma or macular degeneration, photos are a wonderful way of benchmarking ocular appearance for future reference.
  • Photos are an essential tool in monitoring and co-management of patients with diabetes.  Very early changes in the posterior eye appearance (for example small haemorrhages), with no symptoms to the patient can alert the practitioner to potential problems with the disease management and can save sight.
  • Some medications can affect eyes in an unfavourable way and your doctor may request photos for future reference.

When and why do we use drops?

There are two main types of drops we use routinely during eye examination:

  1. Drops including the yellow fluorescein dye and mild anaesthetic are used for checking eye health, eye pressures (as part of the glaucoma screening), tear film integrity and suitability for contact lens wear.  These tend not to have any affect on vision unless you have an allergy to a component in them.
  2. Drops which will dilate (enlarge) your pupils will make your vision slightly blurred particularly at near and increase glare sensitivity.  These symptoms generally wear off after about a couple of hours, but bringing sunglasses to this appointment is helpful. We use these drops to get a better view of the back of the eye, particularly when pupils are small (a common problem as we age). Unless it is an ocular emergency we prefer to make a specific time for this type of examination.