Here’s What Your Optometrist Is Looking for in Your Exam

Exams may make you nervous when you’re in school, but an eye exam will be much more painless. Though you may already be used to the regular experience of getting an eye exam, maybe you’ve wondered what exactly we’re looking for in the test.

It turns out that each stage of the eye exam has its own important purpose. Some of the tests look for serious eye diseases, while others measure the current state of your vision. Here’s a guide Dr. Vishal Patel offers to explain the purpose of the different parts of the eye exam.

New patient paperwork

Just as you have to fill out new patient paperwork at any other doctor, you will with Dr. Patel as well. This is an important step in finding out about other health conditions you have and medications that you take, which we need to know about before your eye exam. Many health conditions and medications can have an effect on your vision.

Peripheral vision testing

This part of the exam tests how well you can see out of the corners of your eyes. Dr. Patel checks how well you can see objects to either side of you. If your peripheral vision is poor, it can affect daily tasks, including driving. Fortunately, like most vision problems, this is correctable.

Color vision testing

You could have problems with seeing specific colors without even knowing it. This test shows you several multi-color patterns with numbers hidden inside them. If you have good color vision, you’ll be able to notice the hidden numbers. If you can’t see any numbers, it can indicate a problem with your ability to see certain colors.

The slit lamp

Also called a biomicroscope, the slit lamp allows us to look at your eyes extremely close-up. This is the test in which you rest your chin on a holder and look straight ahead, while we shine a light into your eyes. This test examines your eyelids, lens, cornea, iris, and the fluid between your iris and cornea.

Sometimes we also use a special dye that will allow Dr. Patel to see any damage to the surface of your eye. This dye will quickly fade away. This part of the exam can reveal if you have conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, or retinal degeneration.

Visual acuity test

This is the part of the test in which Dr. Patel will ask you to read the letters on a chart (called the Snellen chart). This test determines how well you can see without vision correction. Then he will likely have you cover each eye and repeat the test, to determine your vision in each eye individually.

Refraction assessment

During this part of the exam, Dr. Patel places something that looks like a mask in front of your eyes. The typical procedure is to show you two sets of letters and ask you which one looks clearer. This test helps him determine what specific degree of vision correction you need, if any.

Retinal examination

Dr. Patel will shine a light directly into your eyes to view the back of your retinas, the optic nerve, the fluid in your eyes, and the blood vessels that are connected to your retinas. He may also perform this test after dilating your eyes because it’s the clearest way to make a good assessment.

The puff test

If you’ve had an eye exam before, chances are good that you remember the “puff test.” It’s actually called non-contact tonometry, and in it, we blow a puff of air directly into your eyes. It may be startling, but it doesn’t hurt. This test measures the fluid pressure in your eyes, which is one way to screen for glaucoma.


Once every couple of years, Dr. Patel will dilate your eyes with a special solution called fluorescein. You will also receive eye drops that contain an anesthetic, so this part of the exam won’t hurt a bit. Dr. Patel will use the slit lamp to directly touch your corneas to determine the pressure of the fluid in your eyes. This is a more effective way to screen for glaucoma than the puff test.

If you’re due for an eye exam, know that most people don’t have to have one every year, especially if you don’t have any vision problems. Call our office today or request an appointment online.   

Eye Care Solutions
Font Resize
Call Us Text Us