Our eyes are vital organs that allow us to perceive the world around us in vivid detail. However, to maintain optimal vision and eye health, regular check-ups and eye exams by an experienced optometrist are essential. For many though, the idea of an eye exam can feel daunting or uncertain. What should you expect? How long will it take? What tests will be performed?


By understanding the process of an eye exam, you can approach your appointment with confidence and a clear understanding of what to anticipate. Your optometrist will guide you through each step, but having a general idea of the exam can help put your mind at ease.


What to Expect

The examination will usually begin with a discussion about your medical history and any vision-related concerns you may have. Your optometrist will want to gain a thorough understanding your general health, your lifestyle, any medications you take, and whether you've experienced any noticeable changes in your eyesight. This information helps them evaluate your needs and customise the eye exam accordingly.


From there, a series of tests will be conducted to assess the health and function of your eyes. Depending on your age, medical history, or risk factor, common tests may include:


Visual Acuity Test – One of the most well-known eye tests, the visual acuity test measures the clarity of your vision at various distances. You'll read letters or symbols on a standardised chart, from a distance of around 6 metrest (20ft). This test helps determine if you need corrective lenses and assesses the sharpness of your vision.


Visual acuity is expressed as a fraction, for example 6/6 (or 20/20). The top number refers to the distance you stand from the chart (6 metres) The bottom number indicates the distance at which a person with normal eyesight could read the same line you correctly read. 6/6 is considered normal.


Refraction Test – This test is used to measure how light bends as it passes through your eyes, and the purpose is to determine whether you have a refractive error such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism (a need for glasses or contact lenses). During this test, your optometrist will use a phoropter, a device with multiple lenses, to present different lens options. You’ll look through the device and focus on an eye chart  6 metresaway. Your optometristwill then ask if the chart appears more or less clear when different lenses are in place. The result of this test determines if any refractive error is present and the prescription needed to correct the error.


Slit-Lamp Examination – This test allows your optometrist to examine the structures of your eyes in greater detail. Using a specialised microscope that provides a magnified view of the cornea, iris, lens, and other ocular tissues, optometrists can detect signs of eye diseases, injuries, or abnormalities. Your  optometrist may wish to dilate your pupils to better see the internal structures of the eye using the slit lamp. Dilating drops widen the pupils and generally take 1-2 hours to wear off. It isn’t advised to drive while your pupils are dilated like this and therefore it is recommended that you have someone to drive you home after your appointment. It is also a good idea to bring a pair of sunglasses to wear afterwards as light (especially sunlight) will be very bright for the few hours after your appointment.


Tonometry – Tonometry is used to measure the pressure inside your eyes, known as intraocular pressure (IOP). During tonometry, you will likely receive eye numbing drops and then your optometrist may use various techniques, such as the air puff test or the Goldmann applanation tonometer, which involves the use of a flat-tipped probe gently pressed against the surface of your eye. By flattening your cornea just a bit, the tonometer can detect the pressure in your eye.

By monitoring your IOP regularly, your optometrist can detect early signs of glaucoma and initiate early treatment to preserve your vision.


Visual Field Test - The visual field test assesses your peripheral vision, or how well you can see above, below and to the sides of something you’re looking at. Peripheral vision is crucial for tasks such as driving, navigating obstacles, and maintaining spatial awareness. By mapping your visual field, optometrists can identify any areas of reduced or lost vision, which may indicate conditions such as glaucoma, retinal detachment, or neurological disorders.


There are many different methods of visual field testing, but typically automated static perimetry testing is used. In this testyou will look through a bowl shaped instrument at a target straight ahead. Small, dim lights will begin to appear in different places and you will press a button whenever you see a light.


Colour Vision Test - Colour vision testing evaluates your ability to distinguish between different colours and shades. One of the most common methods used is the Ishihara test, where you’ll be shown a number of plates which are printed with dots of different colours, brightness, density and sizes, arranged so that the dots of similar colour form a figure or shape among a background of dots in another colour. Those with defective colour vision will not be able to identify some, or all, of the shapes hidden in the dots.


These are just some of the vast array of eye tests performed byoptometrists, and more specialised testing may be required if any standard tests show signs of any abnormalities. By prioritising regular eye examinations, you can ensure that your eyesight remains clear and healthy for many years to come.


Looking for a Perth optometry clinic for your next eye examination? Book an appointment with Abernethy Owens today. With five practices across Perth, there’s sure to be one near you. Book online now.