Why Everyone Should Have an Eye Exam

Eye exams aren’t just for those with vision problems. Even individuals with 20/20 can have undetected ocular concerns or general health problems which can only be detected during an eye exam. August is National Eye Exam Month and we’re here to share what happens during an eye exam and why it is so important to have one!

Visual Acuity Tests vs. Eye Exams

There is a distinct difference between a comprehensive eye exam with an optometrist and a visual acuity test. Visual acuity tests exclusively determine a person’s seeing ability. They are often offered as free eye tests through community services, nonprofits, in schools, and from online optical retailers. They are similar to the simple eye test conducted at the DMV before issuing a driver’s license. With the recent rise of online optical retailers, many patients have turned to the convenience of online “eye exams” to fulfill their glasses and contact lens prescriptions. However, some things are just better done in person! While these retailers offer convenience, they fall short on a number of critical factors. As a result, many are gaining a false sense of security and could be overlooking major ocular concerns.

Eye exams are performed in-person by a licensed optometrist. These eye exams go beyond testing your basic visual acuity. During an eye exam, your optometrist can detect and diagnose hundreds of ocular diseases using advanced medical instruments and testing equipment that can only be accessed by an eye doctor. As one of the most complex parts of the body, an eye exam performed by an optometrist also looks at the various different parts of the eye to assess the overall health and functions of each part. Eye health is closely related to a person’s overall picture of health and should be trusted to an expert.

What happens during an eye exam?

An eye exam does much more than determine your seeing ability. Routine eye exams begin with the preliminary workup of reviewing your medical and family history to identify any known risks. Your optometrist will then perform a visual acuity test with the familiar Snellen chart (commonly referred to as the chart with the “big E”). Next, is a three-part external exam to evaluate the pupils, peripheral vision, and range of motion. This looks at the eye’s muscle function and reaction to light, all while detecting potential issues such as misalignment, or damage relating to retinal detachments, glaucoma, or stroke. Patients with vision problems will then undergo refraction to determine their glasses and/or contact lens prescriptions. To achieve precision, instruments such as an autorefractor, a retinoscope and a phoropter are used to analyze the light reflected from the eye. Further examination with a slit lamp allows the doctor to see the lids, eyelashes, and even further into the structures of the eye, detecting conditions such as cataracts, cornea damage, or infection.

Eye exams can be categorized as medical or routine. Medical eye exams occur when someone begins to notice problems with their vision or a change to their vision, or for a physical concern, such as an infection or growth. As for routine eye exams, many individuals have routine eye exams annually to renew their eyeglasses or contact lens prescriptions. Routine exams include all aspects of a medical eye exam. The difference is that a medical eye exam typically results in a diagnosis or treatment plan.

Why regular eye exams are so important

Cataracts, retinal detachment, and glaucoma are just a few of the ocular concerns that can be detected during an eye exam which may not be apparent during a basic visual acuity test. Other diagnostic testing can also be performed during an eye exam to either confirm or rule out initial findings, based on your optometrist’s evaluation of the eye thus far.

Visual acuity tests, whether offered in person or through an online retailer, simply do not compare to a comprehensive eye exam with an optometrist. In addition to the ocular concerns mentioned, there are a vast number of general health problems that an eye exam with an optometrist can identify such as a brain tumor, aneurysm, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, or even Vitamin A deficiency, to name a few. Plus, comprehensive eye exams offer the advantage of professional expertise and years of experience from a skilled optometrist. Why trust your visual health with anyone else?


“A comprehensive eye exam is more than just a vision screening to check a person’s seeing ability. A comprehensive dilated eye exam assesses the different parts of the eye. This allows us to give an individual their best possible vision. It is also a way to determine any potential systemic health conditions that an individual may or may not be aware of. A comprehensive eye exam can be performed by your optometrist or ophthalmologist.” – Dr. Amanda Britt Baden, Optometrist with Wilmington Eye

Eye exams with Wilmington Eye

Wilmington Eye provides the full scope of vision care, from routine preventative care to surgical and even cosmetic needs surrounding the eyes. Our optometrists provide the best when it comes to vision care. Visit our provider page to meet each of our optometrists and learn about their specialties.

Whether you have glasses, contact lenses, or 20/20 vision, an eye exam should be a part of your full picture of health. The American Academy of Ophthalmology states that even if your health and vision is in good standing, you should have an eye exam once in your 20s and twice in your 30s, and all adults should have a yearly eye exam at age 40 when early signs of disease and vision changes have been known to occur. Schedule your eye exam with Wilmington Eye today to help maintain your vision and overall health!