Medical Appointments - The Eye Exam

When you and/or your child are called in from the waiting room you will be asked a comprehensive personal and family history by one of our highly qualified ophthalmic technicians. This will help your doctor get to know the total overall health picture of the patient, as well as focus on specific problems. Please remember an ophthalmologist is a MEDICAL DOCTOR who specializes in the eye and the patient’s overall health, state of well-being and other medical illnesses can affect the health of the eyes and the vision. Very often physical exam findings in the eye can relate to other systemic diseases and the patient’s medical, family and social histories are related and carefully evaluated for contributing factors just like at any other medical office visit.

To begin, the visual acuity will be measured at distance and near. Even in small infants there are ways of assessing the vision in simple terms, such as the ability to follow targets. In younger children the vision can be measured by asking them to name pictures or play the “E” game if they are shy. Typical visual acuity charts with letters and numbers are used in older children and adults.

Depth perception, color vision, and visual field testing will be done as well, if possible. The patient will be assessed for strabismus (eye misalignment). The mobility of the eyes will be checked as well.

The outer structures of the eyes and eyelids are checked in addition to the pupils and the red reflex (the reflection of light off the back of the eye). After all of these items are evaluated, drops to dilate the pupils will be placed in each eye. If the technician has any questions or concerns, the doctor may be asked to check the patient prior to the drops being placed.

It takes about 30 minutes for the dilating drops to work fully. After the pupils are large, the doctor will evaluate the structure of the eyes in the microscope as well as examine the back of the eyes with special viewing systems and lenses. The child will also be measured for glasses.

The dilating drops are not painful, however some patients complain of a very brief burning sensation. The drops typically last for about four (4) hours, but can be longer acting in some patients. Because the pupils are large, the patient may be sensitive to the sunlight. Disposable sunglasses are provided. In addition, these drops paralyze the use of the focusing muscles, so reading will be difficult for several hours after the exam.

You should expect to be at the office for at least 60-90 minutes. We strive to see all patients on time and minimize waiting. However, due to the nature of our practice, emergencies do occur and have priority. Please be patient and know that your child will receive our full attention and expert care at the soonest possible time.

Some follow up exams do not require pupil dilation and thus will be quicker. In addition, most patients being follow by our orthoptist will not require dilated exams at follow up visits and many will not be required to see the doctor at every visit either. Please see our detailed description of our orthoptics services on this site for further details.