An eye examination is a series of tests that measure a person's ocular health and visual status, to detect abnormalities in the components of the visual system, and to determine how well the person can see.
An eye examination is performed by an ophthalmologist M.D. or D.O. (doctor of osteopathy), or an optometrist (O.D.) to determine if there are any pre-existing or potential vision problems. Eye exams may also reveal the presence of many non-eye diseases. Many systemic diseases can affect the eyes, and since the blood vessels on the retina are observed during the exam, certain problems may be uncovered (e.g., high blood pressure or diabetes).
Infants should be examined by a physician to detect any physical abnormalities. Frequency of eye exams then generally differs with age and the health of the person. Eye exams can be performed in infants, and if a problem is noted the infant can be seen, generally by a pediatric ophthalmologist. A child with no symptoms should have an eye exam at age three. Early exams are important because permanent decreases in vision (e.g., amblyopia, also called lazy eye) can occur if not treated early (usually by ages 6–9). Again, with no other symptoms, the second exam should take place before first grade. After first grade, the American Optometric Association recommends an eye exam every two years; ages 19–40, every two to three years; ages 41–60, every two years; and annually after that. However, these are recommendations for healthy people with no risk factors. Patients should ask their doctors how often they should come for exams. Some patients have risk factors for eye disease (e.g., people with diabetes or a family history of eye disease; African Americans, who are at higher risk for glaucoma) and may need more frequent checkups. Also, if children seem to be having trouble in school, problems with reading, rubbing their eyes when reading, etc., an eye exam may be necessary sooner.
Lorraine Lica PhD, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,