As we age, eye exams become even more important. Vision problems may develop with no physical symptoms until they’re quite advanced.
When you see your optometrist, make sure you talk about your current concerns, health issues and your family history. The more your eye care professional knows, the better protected you’ll be against potentially debilitating vision loss.
Then, your optometrist will conduct tests to check for:
- Vision – The optometrist can check for short-sightedness (myopia), long-sightedness(hyperopia), astigmatism and presbyopia. While you look at an eye chart, the optometrist will assess your vision for long distance and reading, and, if necessary, determine a prescription for corrective lenses.
- Coordination of eye muscles – The optometrist will assess how well your eyes work together by asking to you to look at different objects while they cover and uncover your eyes.
- Visual fields test – The optometrist will use a piece of equipment called the visual field screener to assess the full horizontal and vertical range and sensitivity of your vision, which can be a good indicator to the health of your visual system.
- Pupil response to light – the optometrist will shine a light in your eyes and watch the pupil’s reaction. The health of the front and the back of your eyes – The optometrist will use either a handheld torch called an ophthalmoscope or a table-mounted microscope called a slit lamp to look for any abnormalities.
- Measurement of eye pressure – the optometrist will release a puff of air onto your eye using an instrument called a tonometer. This tests the pressure inside the eye, an early indicator of glaucoma.
What can I do to self-monitor my vision between professional visits?
One way to self-monitor between professional visits is by looking at an Amsler grid. This is a pattern that resembles a checkerboard with a dot in the centre. While staring at the dot, you may notice that the straight lines in the pattern appear wavy. Or you may notice that some of the lines are missing. By looking at an Amsler grid (PDF) regularly you can monitor any sudden changes in your vision. If you do notice any changes, contact your optometrist right away.
- Do the test with each eye separately by covering the eye that’s not being tested.
- Hold the test grid directly in front of you, approximately 30-35 centimeters from your face, and look at the dot in the centre of the grid, not at the lines.
- While looking at the dot, all the lines, both vertical and horizontal, should appear straight and unbroken.
- If any of the straight lines appear wavy, or you notice that some of the lines seem to be missing, note their location on the grid for future reference.
Remember, this test is not meant to replace your regularly scheduled eye examinations. The best way to detect and monitor for conditions affecting the macula is for your eye care professional to use special instruments to examine the back of the eye.