A routine eye exam is defined by insurance companies as an office visit for the purpose of checking vision, screening for eye disease, and/or updating eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions. Routine eye exams produce a final diagnosis, like nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism.
Vision insurance plans provide coverage for routine exams, glasses and contact lenses, or at least provide some type of discounts on your doctor’s fees. A routine eye exam is billed to your vision insurance plan. By law, Medicare does not pay for routine vision exams.
Childhood vision screening
From birth through the teenage years, children’s eyes are growing and changing quickly. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), children generally should have their first eye exam at 6 months of age, another exam at age three and again at the start of school. Risk-free children should then continue to have their eyes examined every two years until age 18.
Baseline eye exams for adults
To maintain a lifetime of healthy vision, the AOA recommends a comprehensive eye exam every two years for adults ages 18 to 60, and annual exams for seniors age 61 and older.
Seniors and eye exams
If you are 65 or older, make sure you have your eyes checked every year or two. Your eye doctor will check for signs of age-related eye diseases such as:
Here’s a rundown of what to expect at your appointment.
- Nice to meet you. If you’re a new patient, you’ll probably fill out an eye and medical history form, including any symptoms you’re having. The doctor will review it and talk with you more about any risks for vision problems, eye disease or concerns with other medical conditions.
- The Snellen Chart. With its letter-filled rows ranging in size from chunky to seemingly microscopic, this chart has graced many a medical office’s hallway. It’s a simple test to assess your visual sharpness. The doctor will watch to see the smallest row you can make out.
- One or two? This is the test known as refraction. Your doctor uses a tool called a retinoscope or a computerized vision-testing instrument. He or she will shine light into your eyes and get a read on your vision and estimate your prescription strength. After that comes the classic fine-tuning process, where your doctor uses a series of slightly different lenses in front of your eyes to check which subtle differences make you see better.
- First the left, then the right. Your eyes are a team. To see how well they work together, the doctor needs to see how each one performs on its own. You’ll most likely use a little paddle known as an occluder to block vision in one eye first, and then the other.
- Color time. Color vision is a basic building block of seeing well. But, millions of Americans – mostly men – have a color vision deficiency. It’s mostly around not being able to see green or red. In this test, you’ll look at special cards with colored dots that make up numbers. If you see the numbers, your color vision is fine. If there’s a problem, you may have a hard time seeing the number, or it might be completely invisible.
- The puff test. This is the most common test for glaucoma and measures the fluid pressure inside your eyes. It just takes a split-second puff of air in each eye.
- A closer look. Your doctor may dilate your eyes with drops that make your pupils bigger. This allows your doctor to take a closer look in your eyes and look for eye and health conditions.
- Zoom in. A slit lamp, or biomicroscope, lets the doctor get a magnified view of the front and inside of your eyes. It helps your doctor check off a number of conditions, like cataracts, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.