Comprehensive Eye Examination

Regular eye examinations are important in maintaining eye health. During routine eye examinations, the ophthalmologist is able to detect eye diseases or other abnormalities that may not yet be causing symptoms. Early intervention is crucial in preventing vision loss in disease, such as glaucoma, in which a patient may remain asymptomatic until significant and irreversible damage has occurred. Early detection of eye problems allows patients a choice of treatment options and a reduced risk of permanent damage.

Benefits of a Comprehensive Eye Examination

Patients should see their doctors for a comprehensive eye exam every year. Children should have regular tests to ensure the proper development of their vision and prevent any interference with academic achievements. Older adults are at higher risk for eye conditions such as glaucoma, macular degeneration and cataracts. During a comprehensive eye examination, not only are simple refractive errors detected and addressed, but serious eye problems or diseases can be diagnosed. These include:

  • Amblyopia, or "lazy eye"
  • Strabismus
  • Eye tracking difficulty
  • Glaucoma
  • Diabetic retinopathy

Even in younger, healthy adults who are asymptomatic, a regular eye examination provides the doctor with the ability to view the blood vessels of the eye. With information obtained during an examination of the eyes, physicians are able to detect other serious medical conditions, such as high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure, and direct patients to receive early, effective treatment.

The Comprehensive Eye Examination Procedure

A comprehensive eye examination differs from a vision screening. The latter only tests visual acuity and is commonly performed by a school nurse, optician, pediatrician or other health care provider. Only an ophthalmologist can perform a comprehensive eye exam to evaluate the overall health of the eye and detect any changes that may indicate a vision disorder.

In order to evaluate the eyes thoroughly and detect any problems, the doctor may use several of the following tests:

  • Visual acuity
  • Visual field
  • Retinal examination under pupil dilation
  • Slit-lamp
  • Tonometry, to test intraocular pressure (IOP)
  • Keratometry, to measure the curvature of the cornea
  • Refraction

The tonometry test checks for the presence of glaucoma. Keratometry tests for the presence of astigmatism. All of these tests are performed in the doctor's office and are safe for all patients.

Possible Treatments

After completing the comprehensive exam and coming to an accurate diagnosis, the doctor decides whether any further treatment is necessary. Based on diagnostic findings, the doctor may prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses, medication for infection or inflammation, vision therapy, vitamins or other supplements. In some cases, the ophthalmologist will recommend eye surgery.

Common Refractive Errors

The most common eye conditions diagnosed during a comprehensive eye exam involve refractive errors that cause blurry vision for patients. These conditions affect millions of people in the United States and often get progressively worse as patients age. Fortunately, refractive errors can be easily treated to let patients enjoy clear vision at all distances.


Also known as nearsightedness or shortsightedness, myopia is a condition of the eyes in which nearby objects are clear and distant objects appear blurry. Almost a third of people in the United States experience some degree of nearsightedness.


Also known as farsightedness, hyperopia is a condition of the eyes where the focus on distant objects is better than the focus on objects closer to the eye, so nearby objects appear blurry. The eye is designed to focus images directly on the surface of the retina; with hyperopia, light rays focus behind the surface of the retina, producing a blurry image.


Astigmatism occurs when curvature of the eye is irregular. There are two types of astigmatism, corneal, where the shape of the cornea (the clear covering of the eye) is irregular, and lenticular, where the lens is imperfectly shaped. Corneal astigmatism is more common. Astigmatism can result in blurred vision of at any distance.


Presbyopia, meaning "old eye: is a condition in which the eyes lose their ability to focus on close objects. It is considered a normal part of the aging process. Symptoms typically begin when patients are between 40 and 45 years of age.

All of these vision conditions can be effectively treated with either eyeglasses or contact lenses. Corrective lenses may need to be used only during certain activities, such as reading, watching television, or driving, or may be needed at all times.

Comprehensive eye examinations are essential in checking for visual problems, eye diseases, refractive errors and overall health. The ophthalmologist will instruct patients on how frequently they should be examined, based on their age and specific circumstances.

Additional Resources