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What to expect on your first eye testMedically reviewed by Tina Patel, Contact Lens Optician at Feel Good Contacts.
What to expect from an eye exam
An eye test is quick, simple and painless. The objective of an eye test is to determine if you have any refractive errors as well as to check the overall eye health. Here is what you can expect at your sight test.
Eye health screening
Before your vision is tested, you’ll most likely be taken to an eye health screening. This involves using a machine called an auto-refractor, which can give the optician an approximate indication of your current vision. A tonometer will be used to measure your eye pressure, which will involve a puff of air on the eyes, this may be a little uncomfortable but not painful at all. Digital retinal photography will take an image of your eye (you’ll experience a bright flash of light) to check the health of the back of the eye. A visual field test may also be performed to check your peripheral vision. Some tests are optional so don’t worry if your screening is slightly different.
This is when the optician will assess your vision. Typically, this is done by asking you to read letters from a chart. The optician will try and improve your vision and calculate your prescription if needed. They will also ask you to look through one eye at a time to see how well your eyes work independently, as well as together. Finally, they will use a slit lamp (microscope) to assess the health of your eyes, from the front surface to the back of the eye.
How do I get an eye test?
To arrange an eye test, simply make an appointment with a local optician and ask for a convenient time to be seen. When you arrive, an optician will examine your eyes closely with specialised equipment. The optician will then place prescription glass slides in front of your eyes until you find a lens that gives you the best vision.
Getting your eyes checked can help diagnose the most common refractive errors such as myopia (short-sightedness), hyperopia (long-sightedness), astigmatism (which will require toric contact lenses) and presbyopia (which will require multifocal lenses). If your optician spots anything more severe during your eye examination, they will usually refer you to a more specialised eye care practitioner.
Can I get a free eye test?
Getting your eyes tested couldn’t be easier. You may even be eligible for a free eye test, you can read our article to discover the criteria necessary to qualify for an NHS funded eye test.
How often should I get an eye test?
Ideally, you should get an eye test once every 1–2 years, or anytime you feel you have an issue with your eyesight. Examining the eye can also help spot early signs of other underlying health conditions. If you are at a higher risk of developing glaucoma, you should have an eye test at least once per year.
Is a contact lens test the same as a glasses test?
A contact lens test is not the same as a test for prescription glasses. If you want to wear contact lenses, it’s important that you specifically state if you want to wear glasses or contact lenses. Contact lenses and prescription glasses require two different prescriptions, which also means that they require two different types of eye tests. A standard eye test will only give you a prescription for glasses if you have asked for that. As contact lenses sit directly on the eye, they require specific measuring and fitting.
Can you get an eye test when you are pregnant?
Yes – it is perfectly safe to get an eye test when you are pregnant, although you may not receive an accurate picture of the condition of your eyes. Hormonal changes and possible pregnancy-related swelling of the retina or optic nerve means that your eyesight may experience changes during pregnancy. While it is okay to seek medical advice if you experience eye problems during pregnancy, it is also best to seek a second test post-pregnancy to see if the changes subside.
Should you get a second opinion eye exam?
If you feel unsatisfied with your initial test and visual acuity, or feel you did not receive the quality of care that you expected, there is nothing wrong with getting a second test and opinion from another optician. You would, however, have to pay for this.
Are computerized eye tests accurate?
There are several online companies and apps that claim to offer online eye exams, although the validity and effectiveness of these tests have come under scrutiny. They are unable to examine the eye fully and spot more serious eye conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma or macular degeneration.
A computerised eye exam is not a substitute for seeing a qualified eye care professional and even if you choose to have a computerised eye exam, it is still vital that your eyes are examined by a qualified optician.