Routine eye exams with a licensed optometrist are a critical piece of preventative health care. Your Chicago-area eye doctor will be able to diagnose any eye problems early on and help prevent serious health issues or vision loss. Even if you have 20/20 vision, an annual eye exam is an easy way to keep yourself healthy and ensure great vision for the foreseeable future.
Depending on your unique situation, your optometrist may decide whether or not to perform a specific test. The standard eye exam will include:
This includes any vision symptoms, eye injuries, medications, or family history of diseases like diabetes or hypertension. Your doctor may also ask about your workplace and routines to screen for environmental conditions affecting your eyes.
Eye charts are used to measure visual acuity at near and far distances. Other tests measure depth perception, color vision, peripheral vision, eye muscle function, and how pupils respond to light.
While you look through a series of different lenses, your eye doctor measures how the lenses focus light. You participate by saying which one of two options gives you clearer vision. This lets your eye doctor refine the lens power you need to properly correct vision problems including nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism.
A circle of light is focused on the cornea (the clear outer part of your eye) and its reflection is measured. This lets your optometrist measure the outer contour to measure astigmatism and get the right fit for contact lenses.
Tonometry is a test to measure your eye pressure. Eyes are continually producing clear fluid that flows into your eyes and drains out. If there’s a problem with drainage, pressure can build up and damage the optic nerve (causing glaucoma). In this test, an instrument releases a small puff of air as a sensor measures the corresponding indentation on the eye’s surface.
Eye movement tests
Your eye doctor may perform tests to assess how well your eyes are able to change focus and move/work in unison (eye teaming). Evaluating how your eyes move can let your optometrist identify problems compromising your focus or binocular vision.
Eye drops are used to dilate the pupils, which gives your doctor a better view of your retina, optic nerve, and other internal eye structures. Optomap® dilation-free retinal imaging allows your doctor to conduct a comprehensive retinal exam with no dilating drops needed (not available at all locations*).
Contact lens exams
If you wear or want to start wearing contact lenses, you’ll need a contact lens exam and fitting as well as a standard eye exam. A contact lens exam includes special tests to measure your pupil and iris, map your cornea, and evaluate your tear film. Contact lens wearers also have their eyes checked for any damage or changes contact lens use may have caused.
How to Prepare for Your Eye Exam
Bring the following items to your eye exam:
Your latest prescription eyeglasses, sunglasses, and/or contact lenses
Your vision insurance card, if you have one
A list of all medications you're currently taking (prescriptions and over the counter)
Your primary care physician’s contact information
Consider any eye or vision issues you’ve experienced since your last exam
Have you noticed any issues like blurriness, night vision getting worse, seeing flashes of light, or seeing double?
Has a recent change in your vision made you reluctant or anxious to perform specific activities?
Do you have difficulties telling the difference between shades of color, or judging distance?
Do you have any family history of eye diseases like glaucoma or cataracts?
Any information about changes to your general health since your last eye exam will be helpful to your eye doctor.
What NOT to do before your eye exam:
DO NOT drink alcohol before an eye exam. Even a glass of wine or a beer with your last meal can dilate blood vessels in your retinas.
DO NOT strain your eyes. If you can, avoid prolonged screen time and other intense visual activities the day or night before your exam.
DO NOT wear your contact lenses if you’re getting your vision checked. Take them out at least a couple of hours before your appointment, and wear glasses instead (if you’re having a contact lens eye exam, you should wear your lenses so the doctor can evaluate the fit).
For patients with vision insurance (including VSP and most union plans), all or most of the cost of an annual eye exam is typically covered. We offer free coverage checks (no appointment needed) at all Eye Boutique locations. Just call or stop by with your insurance card and we’ll explain the exact details of your coverage.
Our eye doctors also accept CareCredit, which you can use for eye exams, glasses, sunglasses, and contacts. We offer regular deals and discounts on eye exams and eyewear including frames and lenses.
Our opticians know the different ways providers try to limit their costs. We help our patients maximize the value of vision insurance benefits, including FSA & HSA benefits.
No insurance for an eye exam
Many of our patients don’t have any vision insurance and are still able to afford routine eye exams. We regularly offer deals and discounts on eye exams and eyewear, and all our stores accept CareCredit so you can pay for your eye care comfortably over time.
Why are regular eye exams important?
Eye exams are important because diseases affecting the eyes don’t always have obvious symptoms until permanent damage has been done. In many cases, patients don’t notice a change in their vision until the condition has developed into a serious problem. Eye exams can also provide early diagnosis of other serious health conditions.
Aside from eye diseases, vision tends to deteriorate gradually as people age. Annual eye exams can help ensure your prescription stays updated and optimal, so you can continue to see clearly.
What health issues can eye exams detect?
In addition to glaucoma, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and other eye disorders, routine eye exams can detect many other conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, thyroid disorders, and even cancer. The health and condition of the blood vessels in your retinas can provide early warning signs for systemic diseases.
Glaucoma: Nicknamed ‘the silent thief of sight’ because it is notorious for advancing undetected until permanent vision loss has occurred.
Cataracts: The #1 cause of vision loss in the United States. Most cataracts can be detected during routine eye exams.
AMD: Another leading cause of vision loss, which tends to progress slowly without any noticeable symptoms.
Routine eye exams for Children
Routine eye exams are particularly important for children, who may not realize they have trouble seeing until they have their vision tested. Difficulties in school, sports and social situations can sometimes be caused by underlying vision problems.
How often should I get an eye exam?
How often you need an eye exam depends on your age, eye health, and other risk factors. Regular pediatric eye exams are especially important to detect vision problems that can interfere with learning and development. For healthy individuals without vision problems, the American Optometric Association recommends:
6 - 18 YEARS
19 - 60 YEARS
At age 3, and again before starting 5k
Once a year
Every 1-2 years or as recommended
Once a year
*We provide eye exams for children aged 5 and older. For children younger than 5, please contact us for a referral. Annual senior eye exams are recommended for patients aged 60 and older.
If any of these statements are true for you, schedule an eye exam ASAP:
You can’t remember when you had your last eye exam
You experience regular headaches, squinting, or blurred vision
You have chronic eye issues like pain, redness, itching, discharge, or irritated skin
You’ve noticed a sudden increase in spotty vision, ‘floaters’, or bright flashes
Driving at night has gotten more difficult
You’ve had an injury to the eye or eye area
You regularly use digital screens for extended periods of time
As a general rule, when you notice any changes in your vision, it’s a good idea to schedule an eye exam. Like most things, identifying a problem early means treatment is likely to be easier and more successful.