As an Optometrist I need to know that I am providing a great eye exam for all of my patients. However, most people have no idea what constitutes a great eye exam and so settle for an inferior test without even knowing it! To the average consumer, one eye exam is pretty much the same as another, but as a practitioner I can assure you there is a radical difference between what some practitioners do and a comprehensive eye exam and vision test.
The Basic Eye Exam
Most eye care professionals can adequately provide a basic eye exam. This involves the measurement of your sight, which we called visual acuity, an assessment of your eye health (retina and eye pressures) as well as the prescription for your glasses. This can be done fairly quickly if necessary, so Optometrists in commercial situations, whose income is directly dependent on the number of eye examinations they perform in a day, tend to stop at this point because they simply do not have the time to go further.
For me as a practitioner, this constitutes the bottom rung on the eye care ladder, and the minimum requirement that any professional can offer.
Eye Health Checks in the Eye Exam
It should also be pointed out that not all eye health checks are the same either! A 10 second look at each retina with an Ophthalmoscope and a quick puff tonometry is all some eye practitioners provide, but I believe that in order to take care of our eyes and visual systems effectively for many years to come, we need to have more than this!
In our practice we not only examine the retinae, but we also photograph the patient’s retinae and optic disks, sometimes in 3D. We check the front of the eye (lids, cornea, lens and iris), examining angles and structures to make sure that everything is healthy. We can also measure macular pigment density for macular degeneration, as well as eye pressure for glaucoma and visual fields, to make sure vision is not being compromised in any area.
Many people do not realise that most eyes disease remains completely unnoticed by the patient until it is too late, so it is important that we run comprehensive and careful eye exams on every patient be they old or young.
The Missing Element of the Eye Exam
One element of an eye exam often overlooked by patients involves the Optometrist interpreting the figures and measurements taken to offer the best visual strategies and solutions going forward. It is not enough to simply churn out what your instruments have measured, because each person’s visual requirements are unique and need to be thoroughly investigated.
For example, a truck driver may require multifocals to drive and fill out forms, but these will be different than the multifocals required by a teacher who spends most of their day looking at books. A surgeon may need a specific design of multifocal, different to what a housewife and mother needs. A student who is not long or short sighted may require reading lenses to help them sustain their focus and eye coordination for long hours of study.
The oftentimes missing element of the eye exam is the optometrist talking to the patient, discovering what they use their eyes for in their day, and tailoring the exact lenses to suit their purposes. It takes a little more time on the practitioner’s part, but I believe that this practice yields great fruit in many thousands of happy patients getting the very best out of their eyes and vision.
As an Optometrist who cares about his patients and takes pride in a job well done, I need to know that I have offered the very best to my patients. So if you are due for an eye examination don’t compromise your eye health and don’t battle with your eyes as you live each day at work or play. Visit a practitioner who will perform a great eye exam, and get the best from your eyes for years to come!