Are Comprehensive Eye Exams Necessary?

Eye Doctor

Many people schedule regular exams to have their vision checked, but may wonder if it’s necessary to have a comprehensive exam that includes dilation of both eyes.

Many eye diseases do not have warning signs and a dilated eye exam is necessary in order to detect them at an early stage. If signs of disease are discovered, the eye doctor will set up a treatment plan to slow or prevent the progression of the disease and help you maintain healthy vision.

What happens during a dilated eye exam?

A dilated eye exam usually is not part of a vision exam for new glasses or contacts, but it may be scheduled during the same visit. During a dilated exam, special drops are placed in the eyes to widen the pupils. Eye doctors use a magnifying glass to examine the optic nerve for signs of glaucoma or retinal detachment. They also will look into the retina, located in the back of the eye, for symptoms of eye problems or medical conditions, such as diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, eye tumors, high blood pressure and infectious diseases.

For several hours after the exam, your close-up vision may be blurry and your eyes will be more sensitive to light, making it difficult to drive. Wear dark glasses to minimize glare and eyestrain.

How often should a dilated exam be scheduled?

According to Mayo Clinic, the frequency of a dilated exam may depend on several factors, including your age, eye health, family history, results from previous eye exams and overall health.

Recently the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) revised its recommendations on how often eye doctors should schedule dilated exams. In an effort to reduce waste in the health care system, the AAO advises eye doctors to avoid ordering dilation tests when symptoms of specific or significant eye diseases are absent. However, patients need to tell eye professionals about any changes in their vision, including incidences of floaters or pain. Based on the preliminary exam, the eye doctor will decide if a dilated eye exam is necessary to evaluate vision concerns.

To learn more about tests conducted during a comprehensive eye exam, read “What to Expect During a Comprehensive Eye Exam,” provided by All About Vision.