What Happens During an Eye Exam

Article | July 2018

What Happens During an Eye Exam?

During an eye exam, your doctor may ask for your medical history and if you have been having any eye problems. They will perform a series of vision tests to determine your vision needs and current eye health.

How often should I get an eye exam?

Getting an eye exam once every one or two years can help identify vision problems early on and improve vision quality if you need prescription changes.

Factors such as age, health, and a family history of vision problems may determine how often you need an eye exam. Many vision plans cover you for an annual comprehensive eye exam.

Be sure to talk to your eye doctor to figure out how often your eyes need to be checked. If you have high blood pressure or diabetes, they may recommend more frequent exams.

If you are under the age of 40 and don’t have eye problems, you may only need an eye exam every 2 years. After age 40, consider going once a year. This is especially important if you notice a change in your vision, or if you have a family history of diabetes or glaucoma.

What happens during an eye exam?

At the beginning of an eye exam, your eye doctor will ask for your medical history and if you have been experiencing any vision problems. If you currently have glasses or contacts, be sure to bring them to the exam so your eye doctor can see if you need prescription changes.

During the eye exam, your eye doctor can perform a number of different tests such as a glaucoma test (this is a simple screening to measure inner eye pressure), a visual acuity test, and a refraction test.

Based on the results of these tests, your doctor can determine if you need any follow-up vision tests or if you need to get glasses or contact lenses. If you have glasses or contact lenses, you may need to change the strength of your prescription. These tests help evaluate your overall eye health.

What is a visual acuity test?

A visual acuity test examines how well you can see with each eye. Your eye doctor may ask you to cover one eye at a time while identifying symbols. Typically, these symbols are different sized letters or numbers on a chart that’s displayed at a distance from you. Based on your results, your doctor can determine how well you can see at a distance.

What is a refraction eye exam?

A refraction eye exam helps your eye doctor figure out what prescription you need for glasses or contact lenses. To test this, your doctor may have you look into a machine that displays lenses of different strengths. By switching the lens in front of each eye while you read letters and numbers on a chart, your doctor can figure out which lens is best for you. This refraction test also helps your doctor to determine if you need a different strength lens in each eye.

Are there different kinds of eye exams?

There are a few different types of vision tests and eye exams:

  • Comprehensive eye exam: Performed by an eye doctor and includes a series of routine vision tests that not only test how well you can see, but also check you for vision problems and eye diseases. This is often done once a year or once every two years. If you have vision coverage, your plan likely covers an annual comprehensive eye exam, but check your plan documents ahead of time.
  • Diagnostic or follow-up eye exam: If your eye doctor finds any problems during a comprehensive eye exam, they may ask you to come back for a follow-up eye exam so they can run additional vision tests. If you have medical and/or vision coverage, check your plan documents to see if these additional exams and tests are covered.
  • DMV eye test or a vision test from school: These are basic vision screenings to see how clearly you can see and to determine if you need to see an eye doctor for prescription glasses or contacts to correct poor vision. These types of basic eye screenings do not take the place of a comprehensive eye exam done by an eye doctor.

How long does an eye exam take?

You should plan at least an hour for a comprehensive eye exam. There are a number of different kinds of vision screening tests that your eye doctor will perform to check overall vision health, including a glaucoma test, refraction test, and visual acuity test.

How much does an eye exam cost?

Eye exam costs vary greatly, depending where you get them done. Retail vision providers may charge you under $100 and in some cases even less if you purchase contacts or eye glasses. Independent eye doctors cost more. If you have vision coverage, review your plan documents so you know what services your plan covers and what your share of the cost may be.

What are some easy ways to improve vision?

While it may be hard to improve vision, you can correct poor vision by wearing eye glasses or contacts. Regular visits to your eye doctor can also help prevent poor eye health. If not closely managed, diseases such as diabetes and glaucoma can make your vision worse. In addition to staying up-to-date with your prescription changes, wearing sunglasses can help prevent damage to your eyes from the sun. If you have any concerns about your vision or notice any changes, talk to your eye doctor.

I have good vision, do I still need an eye exam?

Even though you have good vision, you should still have your eyes checked once every one to two years. During an eye exam your eye doctor is not just checking how well you see, but your risk for eye diseases, like glaucoma and cataracts. If you have medical conditions of any kind, these could also impact your vision and eye health making a routine eye exam an important part of your health and wellness.

Getting routine eye exams can help maintain your eye health. Be sure to talk to your eye doctor if you currently have glasses or contact lenses or are experiencing any vision problems.

A family history of eye problems and certain health conditions may lead to more frequent visits, but it’s important to be checked regularly even if you aren’t at risk.

Before making any visit to the eye doctor, review the details of your vision plan so you know what’s covered. Depending on your health insurance, a routine eye exam may be covered.

The information provided here is for educational purposes only. It is not medical advice and is not a substitute for proper medical care provided by a physician. Cigna assumes no responsibility for any circumstances arising out of the use, misuse, interpretation or application of this information.