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Preparing for an exam

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Preparing for An Eye Exam

Scheduling a complete eye examination, also called a dilated eye exam, is an important part of preserving clear vision and healthy eyes. During a dilated eye exam, your certified eye care specialist will widen your pupils in order to perform a more thorough checkup.


For individuals without symptoms or increased risk factors, eye exams should be scheduled every few years, with increasing frequency as you get older. People in the 20-39 age group should schedule an eye exam every 3-5 years. For those 40-64, eye exams should be administered every 2-4 years. Beyond age 65, having your eyes examined every 1-2 years is sufficient to address the increased risk for vision problems that occur later in life.


If you have a family history of vision problems, or if you have diabetes or previous eye surgeries/traumas, talk to your eye doctor about receiving more frequent examinations. Of course, if you are currently experiencing symptoms or discomfort, schedule an exam right away.

Before you visit your local eye doctor, prepare for your examination by knowing what to expect. Here is some important information you should have ready before your exam appointment:

  • General health information. Since your eyes are affected by your general health, it's important to keep your eye doctor informed about any new developments in your overall condition. If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, allergies, or if you're pregnant, tell your doctor prior to starting the exam. This allows your doctor to prepare for any problems he finds with your eyes that may be related to a pre-existing health condition.

  • Your specific eye health history. Beyond your general health, it's vital for your eye doctor to have a thorough understanding of your eye health history. This includes the eye health history of your immediately family, which could indicate a genetic predisposition for certain eye diseases. If your relatives have been treated for glaucoma, macular degeneration, or any other vision problems, let your doctor know. It's also important to inform your doctor about any past injuries, surgeries, or traumas you have experienced. All of this information affects how your doctor will assess the results of your eye exam.

  • Recent changes in your vision. Have you seen spots, flashes of light, or an increase in eye floaters lately? All of this information can help diagnose eye problems that may be forming. If you've experienced any abnormalities or changes in your vision, let your doctor know. This includes conditions such as dry, itchy, or burning eyes as well. Bring your eyeglasses and any other eye paraphernalia you use, as these things give your doctor important information about your eyes.

  • Current medications. If you are taking medications for anything, eye problems or otherwise, tell your doctor exactly what you've been prescribed and how often you are taking it. Both prescription and over-the-counter drugs can sometimes affect vision, but they can also interact negatively with medicines your eye doctor prescribes. To avoid severe complications, tell your doctor what medicines you take so that potentially harmful interactions are avoided.

  • Your lifestyle. Do you smoke tobacco or drink alcohol? Certain details regarding your lifestyle and social habits could be relevant before your doctor administers the eye examination. Does your job or your hobbies involve sitting in front of a computer or television screen for lengthy periods of time? These issues are also important to talk to your doctor about, as they can affect vision in some cases. Giving your doctor information about your lifestyle will also allow them to prescribe the most effective means of vision correction if it is required.

By preparing this information ahead of time, you adequately prepare yourself for your dilated eye examination. Of course, it's a good idea to speak with your independent eye care provider before the exam to see what other information they might need for the tests are administered. Your doctor may require specific preparations to be taken depending on their policies or any special tests that are planned. Call ahead so you know what to expect.

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