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What happens during an eye examination?

An ophthalmologist examining a patient's eyes.

An ophthalmologist examining a patient's eyes.

A routine ophthalmic eye exam should be performed on a regular basis to detect eye problems early and help determine the cause of noticeable changes in your vision. Some professions (such as professional pilots and drivers, and military personnel) require frequent eye examinations.

During this exam, your ophthalmologist and his or her assistants ask about your current symptoms and review your medical history. Eyedrops to dilate your eyes may or may not be used during the exam.

The eye doctor evaluates:

  • visual acuity;
  • need for eyeglasses or contact lenses;
  • eyelid health and function;
  • coordination of eye muscles;
  • pupil response to light;
  • side or peripheral vision;
  • intraocular pressure (pressure inside the eye);
  • the anterior segment of the eye (the area in front of the lens, including the cornea and iris); and 
  • the interior and back of the eye.