What to Expect During Your First Eye Exam

As a child, you never complained about your eyes. You could see things well and your eyes seemed healthy, so your parents never scheduled an eye exam. Now that you’re an adult, maybe you’ve noticed that far away objects seem a little blurry, or perhaps you simply want to make sure you still have healthy eyes. Either way, you’re starting to think about scheduling your first eye exam, but you can’t help feeling a little anxious.

If you’ve never had an eye exam before, you might not know what to expect. You might feel the same sense of trepidation you feel about visiting the dentist or doctor. This anxiety might scare you away from scheduling an eye exam-which can mean years of unaddressed eye discomfort that a simple eye exam could solve.

Instead of worrying about your first eye exam, read our blog below. We’ll answer some common questions and outline the exam process. Once you know what to expect, you can lay your fears to rest and confidently schedule your first exam.

Why Do OphthalmologistsRecommend Yearly Exams?

If you’ve never seen an ophthalmologist or optometrist, you’re not alone. A surprising amount of adults have never had an eye exam. Even though ophthalmologists recommend yearly eye exams starting at a young age, if you never complained of eye problems, you may not have thought one was necessary.

However, eye exams are crucial, even for people with healthy eyes. During a comprehensive exam, an ophthalmologist will determine if you need a prescription for glasses or contacts. But he or she will also make sure you don’t have any common eye diseases and check that both eyes work equally well.

Your eyes also provide key signals to your overall health. If you have an undiagnosed condition like diabetes or high blood pressure, your ophthalmologist might be the first person to notice based on your eyes’ health.

Why Aren’t Vision Screenings Enough?

You might have been through a regular vision screening in the past few years, which measures your visual acuity (whether you have 20/20 vision). However, comprehensive eye exams evaluate your eyes’ health, which means checking that each part of the eye works properly. Your ophthalmologist will also look for problems that could cause vision loss. Only a comprehensive eye exam can accurately catch underlying issues before they become major problems.

What Happens During an Eye Exam?

Your eye exam will vary slightly depending on your eye health and lens prescription. Typically, though, for a first exam, you can expect to undergo these short, non-invasive exams that quickly and efficiently measure your eyes’ health and your visual acuity.

Preparing for Your Exam

When you schedule your appointment, tell the receptionist the reason for your exam. Mention any vision changes you’ve noticed. Come to the exam prepared to talk about your family’s eye health history. You should also be able to list any medications you currently take.

Preliminary Tests

After reviewing your family’s medical history, your ophthalmologist will perform a series of teststo make sure that your eyes function correctly. Thiscan include any of the following tests:

  • An eye muscle movement test, which makes sure your eyes can follow a small moving target and are aligned correctly
  • A cover test, which checks that each individual eye can follow a small moving target
  • A pupillary reaction test, which makes sure that each pupil responds correctly to light
  • Simple tests that check side vision, peripheral vision, depth perception, and color vision

Visual Acuity Test

Most people are familiar with this exam. Your ophthalmologist will ask you to read letters off of a chart some distance away from you. The letters will get smaller with each line of text. Your ophthalmologist will likely ask you to cover one eye while you read the text, then switch to the other eye. The test results reveal if you have standard 20/20 vision or another fractional measurement of visual acuity.


If your ophthalmologist determines that you need glasses, these tests help determine what prescription you need. Your ophthalmologist will ask you to look through a series of lenses, then ask you which one allows you to see more clearly.

Eye Health Evaluations

Your ophthalmologist will check that each part of your eye works correctly. He or she will perform external examinations to evaluate your eyelids, cornea, and conjunctiva. Your ophthalmologist might also dilate your pupils to get a clear look at your retina, optic nerve head, and retinal blood vessels, which are located at the back of your eye.

Finally, your ophthalmologist will use a tonometer to test that your eyes have a normal fluid pressure, which usually means you aren’t currently at risk of developing glaucoma. Many ophthalmologists use non-contact tonometers, which blow a gentle puff of air at each eye to measure pressure.

What Should I Do Next?

Now that you know why eye exams are so important and what they entail, you don’t need to fear them. Call to schedule your first appointment and start protecting both your vision and your eyes’ health.