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Standard Ophthalmic Exam


A standard ophthalmic exam is a series of tests done to check your vision and the health of your eyes.

See also: Refraction test

Alternative Names

Routine eye examination; Eye exam - standard; Snellen chart

How the test is performed

The eye doctor will ask questions about your overall health and family's medical history. You should tell the doctor if you have noticed any eye problems.

The doctor checks your vision (visual acuity) using a chart of random letters of different sizes. This is called the Snellen chart.

To see inside your eye, the doctor looks through a magnifying glass that has a light on the end (an ophthalmoscope). The device allows the doctor to see the retina and nearby blood vessels, back of the eye (fundus), and optic nerve area.

Sometimes, you'll be given eye drops so that the doctor can better view the back of the eye. Another magnifying device called a slit lamp is used to see the clear surface of the eye (cornea). See: Slit-lamp exam

Different machines and methods test your eye's reaction to light, eye movement, and side (peripheral) vision. To see if you need glasses, the doctor places several lenses in front of your eye, one at a time, and asks you when the letters on the Snellen chart are easier to see.

Color blindness is tested using multicolored dots that form numbers. See: Color vision test

The doctor checks for glaucoma using a method called tonometry.

How to prepare for the test

Make an appointment with an eye doctor (some take walk-in patients). Avoid eye strain the day of the test. You may need someone to drive you home if the doctor uses eye drops to perform certain eye tests.

How the test will feel

The tests cause no pain or discomfort.

Why the test is performed

You should have regular eye exams. Such exams allow for early detection of eye problems and help determine the cause of vision changes.

Various eye and medical problems can be found by a routine eye test, including glaucoma, cataracts, high blood pressure, macular degeneration, and diabetes. People with diabetes should have their eyes examined at least once a year.

Certain types of work require that you get eye exams. For example, pilots, race car drivers, and military personnel.

Normal Values

  • 20/20 (normal) vision
  • Ability to differentiate colors
  • No signs of glaucoma
  • Normal optic nerve, retinal vessels, and fundus

What abnormal results mean

Abnormal results may be due to:

  • Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD)
  • Astigmatism
  • Blocked tear duct
  • Cataracts
  • Color blindness
  • Corneal abrasion (or dystrophy)
  • Corneal ulcers and infections
  • Damaged nerves or blood vessels in the eye
  • Diabetes-related nerve damage in the eye (diabetic retinopathy)
  • Glaucoma
  • Hyperopia
  • Lazy eye (amblyopia)
  • Myopia
  • Presbyopia
  • Strabismus
  • Trauma

This list may not be all-inclusive

What the risks are

If you received drops to dilate your eyes for the ophthalmoscopy, your vision will be blurred and sunlight can damage your eye. Wear dark glasses or shade your eyes to avoid discomfort until the dilation wears off.

Special considerations

Many eye diseases, if detected early, are curable or can be treated.

Review Date: 2/22/2007

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Information developed by A.D.A.M., Inc. regarding tests and test results may not directly correspond with information provided by UCSF Medical Center. Please discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.