Eye Exams 101

Regular comprehensive eye exams are key to early detection of eye-related diseases to keep you seeing your best every day. Adults should have a comprehensive eye exam every 1-2 years. Children should have an eye exam as early as 6 months, before they start school, and then every 1-2 years. If you or your family need a comprehensive eye exam, contact our office to schedule an appointment.

We often get questions about what an eye exam is like, so we’ve created an overview of a typical eye exam in our office.

Eye Exam Basics

What does an eye exam test for? Eye exams test your visual acuity and the overall health of your eye.

Why is an eye exam important? Eye exams check for early signs of serious eye and health problems; some of which may not present with any symptoms.

Who gives an eye exam? Your eye exam is performed by a licensed eye doctor.

Terms to know:

  • Ophthalmologist: An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor (MD) who specializes in eye care. Ophthalmologists can prescribe eyeglasses and contacts but commonly specialize in treating medical conditions of the eye and performing eye surgery
  • Optometrist: Optometrists are eye doctors who prescribe glasses, contacts, vision therapy, and medication to treat eye diseases. Optometrists are not trained or licensed to perform eye related surgery.
  • Optician: An optician is not an eye doctor, but is an eye care professional who fits, adjusts, and repairs your eyeglasses. They can also help patients learn to apply, remove, and care for contact lenses.

What to prepare for your appointment?

Before your comprehensive eye exam, there are several materials you can prepare. First, create a list of all your prescription and non-prescription medications you take along with the dosage. This will help your eye doctor determine any vision risks you may have. Bring your most recent pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses, if you have them. Don’t forget to have a copy of your vision insurance card and other medical insurance cards with you. To learn more about the insurance providers our office accepts and other payment options, please call our office directly. Finally, bring a list of questions or concerns you may have about your eyesight to discuss with your eye doctor.

What to expect during your appointment?

Prepare for your eye exam to take an hour or more depending on the number of tests your eye doctor needs to evaluate your vision and eye health. A typical comprehensive exam is a series of visual tests to inform your eye doctor about your vision.

These tests help determine:

  • Sharpness of near and distance vision
  • Color blindness
  • Lazy eye
  • Ability to follow moving object and/or move between two separate fixed objects
  • Depth perception
  • Determine your eyeglass prescription
  • Structures of the eye
  • Glaucoma test
  • Eye drop test to look inside your eyes
  • Blind spots

What to do after the exam?

Following your exam, you will have the opportunity to explore the various frames and lenses found in our optical space. An optician will be available to assist you in selecting a pair of eyewear that best fits your lifestyle needs. If you choose to wear contact lenses, you will need to schedule a contact lens fitting appointment.

Once your new eyewear is ready to be picked-up, an optician will adjust your frame to fit you best and make it comfortable for everyday wear.

Finally, schedule your follow-up appointment for the next year. Regular comprehensive eye exams are essential in maintaining healthy vision. If you ever experience any sudden vision changes or eye injuries be sure to contact our office.

Eye Color & Genetics

Ever wonder why your eyes are blue, green, brown, or somewhere in between? The colored part of your eye, the Iris, contains pigmentation which determines our eye color. Your parents pass on chromosomes which combine to customize your eye color.

How eye color develops

Eye color is not as simple as other genetic traits. Three different genes contribute to your eye color. Due to dominant gene types, darker colors like brown overpower lighter colors like blue and green. Colors such as gray, hazel, and multiple combinations are not as common and are not yet completely understood.

Most babies are born with blue eyes, but did you know their eyes can darken for three years? Melanin is a pigment not present at birth, which develops with age and causes eyes to darken. The more melanin someone has, the darker their eyes will be.

Facts About Common Eye Colors:

  • Brown: Most common eye color worldwide. This varies between dark brown, light brown, and honey brown eyes.
  • Blue: People with blue eyes have less melanin in their eyes than any other color. Blue eyes are thought to come from a genetic mutation of one individual.
  • Green: Thought to be the most attractive and one of the rarest eye colors.
  • Hazel: The hue of hazel eyes changes based on what you are wearing and the type of lighting you are in. Hazel eyes host a variety of colors.

Changes in eye color

When your pupil changes size, the pigments in the iris of your eye compress or spread apart causing the color of your eyes to change. Your pupils change size for a variety of reasons including changes in light and the distance of the object you are focusing on. Emotions can also change the pupil size and iris color.

Heterochromia

Heterochromia is a condition in which a person’s eyes are different colors, caused by one eye having more melanin than the other. Typically, present at birth and is not considered an eye disease as it does not commonly cause vision problems.

Enhancing your eye color

  • Wear eyeglass frames to compliment your eye color and skin tone.

Example: Determine if you are “warm” or “cool” toned skin and eye color then match your frames with a complementary color.

  • Use eye makeup to bring out the color of your eyes.

Example: Pinks, purples, and silvers bring out the warmth in brown eyes.

  • Wear clothing which compliments or contrasts your eye color.

Example: Orange, red, and gold highlight the natural hue of blue eyes.

  • Choose hairstyles and colors to accentuate your eyes.

Example: Bangs and layers which frame the face draw more attention to your eyes.

  • Colored contact lenses give you the opportunity to try out a new look.

Preventing Snow Blindness, Sunburn for Your Eyes

We take many precautions to avoid sunburn on our skin, face, and lips, but have you ever thought about your eyes? Many are surprised to learn our eyes can also acquire sunburn. This condition is known as photokeratitis or snow blindness.

What causes Snow Blindness?

Snow Blindness occurs when your eyes are exposed to ultraviolet light for an extended period of time, causing sunburn. It most commonly occurs in snowy areas because snow reflects 80% of UV rays.* Snow blindness can also occur in highly reflective environments with water or white sand.

In addition to natural UV rays, man-made sources of ultraviolet radiation can cause snow blindness. Typically, man-made UV rays only damage your eyes when the proper eyewear is not being worn. This can happen when working with a welder’s torch or using tanning booths or sunlamps.

Can I lose my vision completely?

No, Snow Blindness is temporary and doesn’t cause actual blindness, it typically impairs your vision for 24 to 48 hours.

Symptoms of Snow Blindness

  • Eye pain
  • Burning, red, or watery eyes
  • Gritty sensation
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Blurry vision
  • Swollen eyes or eyelids
  • A headache
  • Glare and halos around lights

Risk factors for snow blindness?

You and your family are at an increased risk for snow blindness when involved in sports with highly reflective surfaces. When skiing, snowboarding, and snow sledding, you should ensure everybody’s eyes are protected with snow goggles that provide 100% UV protection.

Altitude plays a big role in the risk for snow blindness. At higher altitudes, UV rays are stronger. Therefore, when high altitudes, such as mountains, are combined with snow, the risk of Snow Blindness doubles.

Don’t forget, water sports such as water skiing, knee boarding, and surfing require protective eyewear as well. A great option is wraparound sunglasses that block out 100% of UV rays and remain on your head throughout the duration of the activity.

How do I prevent snow blindness?

  1. Anytime you are outside, you should wear sunglasses that block 100% of UV rays.
  2. Remember, UV rays can penetrate clouds, so sunglasses are required even on cloudy days.
  3. Always wear snow goggles when skiing, snowboarding, and mountain climbing.
  4. Wear wraparound sunglasses when you plan to be on or near water for extended periods of time.
  5. Ensure you have eye shields to wear in tanning beds and booths. Never tan without eye shields.
  6. Use the recommended safety eyewear for your job if you are working with harmful light.

 

*The United States Environmental Protection Agency

Corrective Eye Surgery Basics

Corrective eye surgery can address a number of eye problems. Most people have heard of laser eye surgery to eliminate the need for prescription glasses. As the procedure has gotten easier and less expensive, more people are opting for things like LASIK and telling their friends about the results.

 

LASIK

LASIK is the most popular refractive surgery. Because healing time is fast, many people check to see if they are good candidates for LASIK before considering other options. With LASIK, a flap is made on the front of the cornea. A laser is then used to remove some corneal tissue and smooth irregularities in the surface of the lens. The cornea can be made flatter or more rounded to cure nearsightedness or farsightedness, as well as astigmatism.

 

Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK)

Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK) was the first laser eye surgery that became widely available for vision correction. It may help people who are nearsighted, farsighted, or have astigmatism. PRK is similar to LASIK, but the main difference is that the procedure does not involve cutting a flap on the surface of the eye to resurface the lens. With PRK, the epithelium covering on the eye is essentially buffed away, and the surface of the cornea is reshaped using an excimer laser. This means the protective covering on the front of the eye has to heal which creates a longer healing process for PRK than some other procedures.

 

LASEK

LASEK is a corrective eye surgery that can also address myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism. LASEK reshapes the front of the cornea with a specialized laser procedure, eliminating the need for glasses in some patients. The thin covering on the front of the eye is not entirely removed like with PRK. Instead, an even thinner flap than what LASIK uses is created and then replaced after the procedure to act as a natural bandage. Some people who cannot get LASIK are instead candidates for LASEK because it can be performed on someone with a thinner cornea.

 

Cataract Surgery

Cataract surgery is also considered corrective eye surgery. For this type of surgery, the cloudy lens of an eye with a cataract is removed and an artificial lens is replaced. Vision is then made clear again, which often reduces the patient’s need for glasses. The procedure is very common and considered one of the safest and most effective corrective eye surgeries. As our population ages, instances of cataracts surgery are on the rise and continue to provide great results.

 

The different kinds of corrective eye surgeries have their benefits and possible side effects. Make sure that you consult a qualified eye doctor if you have questions about these procedures.

What’s in a Prescription?

It seems like contact lenses and glasses would use the same prescription. After all, the idea is that your eyes don’t see quite right, so you use a lens to change the view, and then you see clearly, right? Well, the two prescriptions are quite different. Few patients check the numbers or notice any change during the exam process, but the prescriptions are not the same because of where the lens sits in relation to your eye.

The lens of your glasses rests about twelve millimeters from your eye. Contact lenses, on the other hand, are placed directly on the surface of your eye. Why would this make your prescription different? Well, think about holding a magnifying glass out in your hand. When you hold it far away and look through, the view you see is much different than if you try to hold the magnifying lens up close to your eye. The same principle is in play when you consider glasses in contrast to contact lenses.

If you’re still imagining the magnifying glass held out in your hand, think about how grass would look if you’re sitting on the ground and have the magnifying glass down near the grass. You’d be able to see the blades clearly, right? If you held the magnifying glass up close to your eye, the refraction would be so strong that you wouldn’t be able to see anything other than a blur. The power of the glass would need to be reduced for you to see clearly. This is the reason why your contact lens prescription is weaker than your glasses, but you get the same crisp, clear vision with each. Neat, right?

Not all contact lens prescription powers are drastically less than the glasses prescription for the same person, but usually the power used for contact lenses is reduced. In addition to the powers being different, your eye care professional will need some additional measurements to fit you for contact lenses because there are specifications needed to fit contact lenses appropriately that aren’t needed for glasses.

Some things that need to be measured to receive an accurate contact lens prescription are the size of the cornea, the curve and overall size of the lens, and the suggested brand of lenses that will work best for you. Eye care professionals usually have an idea of which contact lenses work best with different eye conditions, so they will suggest a particular toric lens for your astigmatism, or a type of disposal lens based on your needs, for example.

Some aspects of the lens prescriptions are included for both kinds of eyewear. The lens power is included in both prescriptions. Lens power is the measurement used to correct your “refractive error,” or the nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism that you have. It wouldn’t be identical because of the magnifying glass analogy, but it is included in both prescriptions. They’re also laid out per eye—right vs. left—because very few people have the same prescription in both eyes, so they are measured individually regardless of what type of eyewear you’re getting. More technical aspects of your prescription (the power and axis determined to correct astigmatism, for instance) may also be included in both the contact lens and glasses versions of your prescription.

Hopefully that makes the difference between your contact lens and glasses prescriptions clearer. Talk to your eye care professional if you have any questions about your prescription or are curious about getting contact lenses or glasses.