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Why comprehensive eye exams are important for your vision

It is easy to assume that a vision screening is a comprehensive eye test, but this is not the case.

Vision screenings are basic eye tests that help identify whether you have any problem with your vision, but they don’t test for eye diseases or the underlying causes of any vision problem. It does, however, identify whether you should get a comprehensive eye exam and should not be seen as a substitute for one. It is a series of short tests compared to a full eye exam. It is often a precursor as it identifies whether you have a vision problem rather than determining what the issue is. Vision screenings are often performed in places like schools or community centres by nurses, optometrists, and other allied health practitioners. And, sometimes by your GP. A screening would normally involve a set of simple assessments such as:

  • Testing your visual acuity using an eye chart either with “Snellen” letters or for children who can’t read yet, what is called the “Tumbling E” chart
  • Testing your pupil reactions to light
  • Eye coordination using simple charts or other basic tests
  • Stereopsis (depth perception /3D)
  • Some vision screenings also test for colour vision using charts like the Ishihara Colour Vision test

A comprehensive eye examination on the other hand is performed by an optometrist and will involve a thorough examination of all aspects of your vision. Your optometrist will then make recommendations based on your individual visual needs. This includes prescription lenses, eye exercises, eye drops or ointment, and even referral to an ophthalmologist for further treatment or surgery as required.

An eye test may vary slightly depending on your age or specific needs, but most commonly include these tests:

  • Visual Acuity:This is a test to measure the sharpness of your vision.
  • Refraction: This finds your prescription, which may or may not need to be made into glasses
  • Colour Vision:A screening test to check your colour vision to rule out any colour vision defect.
  • Tonometry: This measures the pressure of inside your eyes. This is part of Glaucoma test.
  • Cover Test:This is a simple, easy way to test if your eyes work well together.
  • Ocular Motility or Eye Movements:This determines how well your eyes can follow a moving object as well as fixate on different targets. Issues with eye movement can cause eye strain and lead to difficulties in reading.
  • Slit Lamp Exam:This is a specific test your optometrist uses to examine the structure of your eye under high magnification. This helps detect a wide range of eye conditions and diseases including cataract, macular degeneration, corneal ulcers, and diabetic retinopathy.
  • Retinal Photography: Many optometrists today use high resolution digital cameras to take images of the back of your eye to be able to look at changes over time and as a good record of the state of your retina.

These are the most common tests performed during a comprehensive eye exams but there are more which covers a wide spectrum of potential eye conditions.

You can get an eye exam with an optometrist at Junic Eyecare Plus Coombs or ophthalmologist clinic. It is important to book an appointment first to make sure we can accommodate you.

At the eye exam, you can expect the optometrist to take a comprehensive medical history to figure out what they should be looking out for. These questions can range from your family history, past and present medical issues, medications you might be on, injuries, and other factors. It is essential to be as forthcoming and thorough as possible with your answers to ensure that the test covers all likely possibilities.

Author: Juliet Menakaya, O.D MPH

CANBERRA OPTOMETRIST Juliet obtained her Doctor of Optometry degree from the University of Benin, Nigeria in 2006. She completed an internship programme before migrating to Australia, where she completed a master’s degree in public health at the University of Sydney in 2014. Following this, Juliet obtained a Master of Orthoptics from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in 2017. Juliet has completed her competency in optometry examination with OCANZ (Optometry Council of Australia and New Zealand), and obtained her ophthalmic prescribing rights from ACO (Australian College Of Optometry Victoria). Juliet has worked in various positions, including retail Optometry, the Ophthalmology Department at Canberra Hospital, and more recently, at the John Curtin School of Medical Research (ANU). As a dedicated Canberra optometrist, Juliet is passionate about helping people with low vision, and binocular vision anomalies hence her interests in Low Vision Rehabilitation, Eccentric Viewing Training and Paediatric optometry.