One of the best ways to protect the long-term health of your eyes and vision is to make sure that you attend regular eye exams. However, many people find that they don't know the difference between various types of eye exams. This is because there are many different names that are used to describe eye appointments that are designed to check the health and condition of your eyes. These include:
Medical eye exams
Routine vision exams
Comprehensive eye exams
Many people make the mistake of thinking that all eye exams are the same, but the reality is quite different. So, what is the difference between a routine eye exam and a comprehensive eye exam?
The main purpose of a routine eye exam is to identify if your vision could be improved using prescription lenses. The most common cause of this is a refractive eye error. Refractive eye errors are very common and are responsible for about 80% of vision impairment in the United States. The most prevalent is myopia, better known as short-sightedness. This is where the patient can see objects close to their face clearly, but those that are further away appear blurred or distorted. Other refractive eye errors include hyperopia (far-sightedness), astigmatism, and presbyopia, an age-related refractive problem.
Refractive errors are caused by the light in the eye not hitting the light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye properly. This occurs because of issues with the shape of the cornea at the front of the eye. The misshapen cornea causes the images that are being sent to your brain to appear distorted and blurred, making it harder for you to focus on them. Patients with refractive eye errors might also experience other symptoms including glare, halos around light sources, headaches, and eye strain.
A routine eye exam will assess how well you can see at different distances and whether you would benefit from prescription eyewear, such as glasses or contact lenses. If so, your eye doctor will determine what prescription you will need and will help you in finding the best corrective eyewear for your needs. If you choose to wear glasses, you will receive advice on finding the right type of lenses and frames based on your requirements. Similarly, if you decide on contact lenses, you will be advised which contact lenses will best suit your needs and given a contact lens fitting to ensure that your lenses fit well and are comfortable to wear.
Comprehensive eye exams are quite different from routine eye exams. In addition to checking for refractive eye errors, your eye doctor will also evaluate the overall health of your eyes by screening you for common eye diseases. This usually involves a range of different assessments, which may include:
A visual acuity test, as is performed in a routine eye exam
Checking how well your eyes work together and individually
Depth perception testing
Testing the movement of the eyes
A slit lamp exam where your doctor checks the shape of the eyeball and spots any abnormalities
Pupil dilation, which lets your eye doctor look into your eyes to check for the presence of any internal eye diseases
Glaucoma testing, which checks the pressure inside your eyes
Annual comprehensive eye exams will give your eye doctor a chance to detect any of the many common eye diseases that could potentially affect the health of your eyes and your vision. These include glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, keratoconus, binocular vision dysfunction, and more. By diagnosing them promptly, your eye doctor could potentially prevent any damage to your vision or eye health.
If you would like to learn more about the difference between different eye exams, please call Special Eye Care in Camp Springs, Maryland at (301) 298-3241.