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What Happens when you Visit an Optometrist?

Whether it is your first visit or one of your many visits, it can sometimes be still quite confusing what happens at the optometrist during your routine eye examinations.

History Taking

Optometrists are trained to detect and diagnose any vision problems you may have. This could be a refractive problem, meaning assessing the power of lenses and type of glasses you may require to eliminate blurry vision, or, any underlying eye diseases could cause it. Optometrists would be the best first port-of-call to give you advice and provide some useful insights into your vision and overall eye health.

For us to do this, we will ask you what’s the purpose of your visit. It could be an annual eye check, similarily to a routine dental visit to ensure your eyes are healthy and not at risk of developing blindness in the near future. Or, it could be that you’ve recently experiencing blurry vision while reading or working on the computer. We will ask you when these symptoms have started to appear and whether or not the blurriness fluctuates throughout the day. There’s much more in-depth questioning involved at the start of the consultation to ensure we understand how your eyes work, especially if this is your first visit to our practice.

Quite often, we will ask about your general health, such as what medications you are taking and any pre-existing chronic medical conditions such as any cardiovascular disease or diabetes. The reason we do this is that certain systemic medical conditions affect the performance of your eyes which could put you at risk of developing blindness if it is left unmanaged. Certain medications such as patients taking Plaquenil if left unmonitored can pose a serious risk of developing irreversible macular damage.

The process of understanding your eyes and general health forms a part of our history taking which usually takes around 10 – 15 minutes. At Capital Eye, a comprehensive history taking allows us to tailor our eye examinations to your needs. We take the time to understand your conditions and concerns to ensure none of your questions goes unanswered.

The Eye Examination

What happens during an eye examination? Does it hurt? Will there be puffs of air blown into my eyes? Do my eyes need to be dilated? Will there be drops involved? Will I need glasses after the appointment? These are a few of many questions we get from our first-time patients and patients who have never had their eyes tested before. We understand that our patients can get quite nervous and anxious with anything that is to do with their eyes. A rule of thumb we like to use is that it’s generally less painful than seeing your Dentist (!)

A typical standard eye test you expected to receive elsewhere requires you to read letters of a chart similarily at your GP’s office. They may put you on som digital imaging device to see at the back of your eyes. They may require you to look at some images through a device like a “hot air balloon down the end of the road” to estimate your prescription or, the power of the lenses of your glasses. With this data, the optometrist will refine this prescription by having you look through a series of lenses asking you which lenses make certain letters clearer or blurrier. Next, they check your eye health by shining lights into your eyes and measuring the eye pressure by blowing some air into your eyes.

We find the above process can often confuse patients as it seems that multiple tests are done just for the sake of doing so. At Capital Eye, we don’t only just ‘test’ eyes. We examine them to determine what tests and procedures are necessary and relevant to you. We do this by spending the time to listen to our patients and really get to the root of the cause. We will conduct several non-invasive tests to assess your vision and eye health and to be guided through every step of the process.

We have designed our practice and consulting rooms to respect your personal space and privacy. Our cutting edge diagnostic technology allows us to gain insight into your eye health and predict your risks for certain eye diseases; preventing them before they occur. We pick our equipment with patient comfort in mind. For example, we don’t use outdated “puffs of air” technology to measure your eye pressure. Our rebound eye pressure measuring device means you only feel a tickle. In most cases, the measurements are done before you even realise it.

There will be times when it is necessary to use dilating eye drops to assess the health at the back of your eyes. These drops expand your pupils to gain a detailed view of the retina, especially the peripheral retina. Quite often, we can see early signs of retinal diseases at the peripheral retina, which would otherwise be missed without a dilated eye examination. First-time patients at Capital Eye are dilated to gain a comprehensive background and understanding of your retina; to document any variations of your peripheral retina. It does take some time for the drops to work, generally around 20 – 30 minutes and your vision after the dilated assessment. It does take some time for the drops to wear off, and it is not uncommon for your vision to be blurry and glare sensitive after the assessment for more than 3 hours. For this reason, we ask our patients not to drive to the dilation appointment or organise a driver for after the appointment.

The Bottom Line

Your initial visit to the optometrist involves taking a comprehensive history, assessment of your vision and eye health, discuss your own individual risks for certain eye diseases and any advice to prevent them from happening. At Capital Eye, we do more than just renewing your glasses and/or prescription for new lenses. We advocate preventative eye health by having your eyes routinely assessed to ensure your vision will last you a lifetime.