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Do I Need to Get an Eye Exam? - How to Know When to See an Eye Doctor

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What is the difference between a vision screening and a comprehensive routine eye exam? How often should you be seen for a routine eye exam?

What is a vision screening?

A vision screen is typically performed at a school or at a primary care provider's office. A vision screen checks for vision and eyesight. A vision screen does not check for eye diseases or the health of the inside of the eye.

"A vision screening is a quick and easy way to detect visual acuity deficiencies but it is not a replacement for a comprehensive eye exam,” says Hanna Kim, OD, Optometrist at the McFarland Boone Eye Center. “There's more to healthy eyes than 20/20 vision."

What is a routine eye exam?

Routine comprehensive eye exams can detect damage to the eye before visual or physical changes are noticed. If eye problems are caught early enough, treatment can help prevent permanent visual sequelae.

What happens during an eye exam?

A routine comprehensive eye exam evaluates:

  • Refractive errors to determine if glasses are needed from astigmatism, near-sightedness, farsightedness, or losing near-focus vision
  • Changes in vision
  • Problems of muscles supporting the eyes such as eye turns or double vision
  • Thorough ocular health check of the front and back of the eye

During a routine eye exam, your eye doctor will thoroughly examine the eyes and perform a vision exam. An eye exam involves a series of tests to check for eye diseases. To examine the inside of your eye, a medicated eye drop will be used to dilate your eyes.

After Eye Dilation

If you have your eyes dilated after your eye exam, you may experience some blurry vision and sensitivity to light. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun.

How often should you get an eye exam?


According to the American Optometric Association, the recommended frequency of eye exams changes depending on a child's age.

Birth to Age 2

Children should have their eyes examined as early at 6 to 12 months of age. Premature or high-risk children should be seen before the age of 1 year.

Ages 3 to 5

Children should have their eyes examined at least once between the ages of 3 and 5.

Ages 6 to 17

Children should have their eyes examined before first grade and annually thereafter.


For adults 18 to 64, it is recommended to have an eye examination at least every two years. Adults 65 and older should have an eye examination annually. An ophthalmologist or optometrist can help you determine your own frequency of exams and risk level.

What is an ophthalmologist?

Ophthalmologists are eye physicians with advanced medical and surgical training. An ophthalmologist will diagnose and treat eye diseases, perform eye surgery, and prescribe and fit eyeglasses and contact lenses to correct vision problems.

What is an optometrist?

An Optometrist, or doctor of optometry, is a healthcare professional that specializes in the eye and visual system. An optometrist will diagnose and treat eye diseases, and prescribe and fit eyeglasses and contact lenses to correct vision problems.

Tagged As: Eye Health

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