Getting an eye test might seem an easy thing to do in our modern society, with so many optometrists and optical dispensers around, but are all eye tests the same?
As a behavioural optometrist, I considered that there is far more to an average eye test them what meets the eye (please excuse the pun!). So if you want to get an eye test, what makes one eye care professional different to another?
What are the Different Philosophies around an Eye Test?
When you visit an optometrist and ask him to test your eyes, the philosophy and mode of practice of that optometrist will be reflected in the eye test.
If the eye doctor is mainly concerned with the health of your eyes, the eye check you experience will centre on the detection of eye disease rather than the way you use your eyes in your job or leisure time.
If the eye care professional is associated with a large dispensing firm, they will mainly be concerned about selling you their brand of glasses, so their emphasis is on fashion and price.
If the optometrist as a behavioural optometrist, their main emphasis will be the way that you use your eyes and their aim will be to set up your visual world so that you can concentrate and be the most productive.
So different modes of practice and different philosophies will result in different eye tests.
But hey, it’s your eye test, why should you settle for anything less than the best? Trouble is, most people don’t really know or understand the differences between eye testing, so here’s an overview of what I consider to be the best eye test…
What is Involved in the Best Eye Test?
While eye testing is not uniform across the profession, the best eye test must involve certain elements.
1. The Health of the Eyes
The health of your eyes is an important aspect of an eye check, because the increase in eye diseases particularly among the elderly can result in vision loss and even blindness. The best eye test must have an emphasis on eye disease, checking for things like diabetes, glaucoma, macular degeneration and other eye conditions.
If an optometrist is going to test your eyes, make sure that they check the health of your eyes, and ask them to explain to you the tests that they have performed, the results they have obtained and the impact that this might have on your current and future vision.
Checking the health of your eyes in an eyesight test is an important part of eye care, which makes an online eye test (which many turn to as a cheap alternative) a potential disaster. While an online eyesight test might give you a rough guide to vision loss, failing to have the health of your eyes checked could potentially result in big problems.
Every good eyesight test includes a thorough examination of the health of your eyes.
2. Longsight, Shortsight or Astigmatism
Every optometrist who performs an eye test will measure whether your eyes are longsighted, short sighted or if you have astigmatism. These are measured at a distance of 6 metres, and it is this result the commonly gives rise to the prescription that is prescribed during the eye check.
While this might be an important part of the test your eyes are far more complex than a distance prescription.
As a behavioural optometrist, when I test your eyes I aim to do more than just check them at 6 metres. If you have near related symptoms such as sore eyes, headaches or blur, I believe it is important that the eye test goes beyond the standard measurement of long or short sight.
3. Focus and Eye Teaming
Eye tests frequently fail to look at focus and eye teaming in patients under 40 years of age, and I believe this is a mistake because many of the symptoms younger people experience are tied closely to their inability to focus and team their eyes together effectively.
Many of the school students I see who experience and learning difficulties or the growth of shortsightedness struggle to team their eyes together effectively and focus for long periods of time on close work such as reading, iPads, computers and the like.
Yet commonly an eye test does not look at these important areas, instead simply measuring long or shortsightedness at a distance of 6 metres.
As a behavioural optometrist, I am constantly thinking about the flexibility of your visual system when I’m doing an eye test. So when I examine anybody’s eyes, especially those who are experiencing symptoms like headaches, tiredness, sore eyes or poor concentration, I measure the flexibility of the visual system.
When checking the focus and eye teaming, I am able to hold one constant while varying the other and able to measure how flexible the systems are. High flexibility indicates a healthy and robust visual system, but tight flexibility indicates vision that is under stress.
Many people who work with computers struggle to keep flexibility, and the application of a simple set of glasses can support their focus and eye teaming and increase their productivity and the amount of time they can concentrate.
Ultimately an eye test should not only look at the health of your eyes, but it should make sure that your eyes are performing to their maximum ability. If I test your eyes find that they are struggling to maintain focus, this will certainly affect your performance, whether you are at school, university or work.
If you are the sort of person who does a lot of computer work, study or spends a lot of time using technology, this places greater stress on your focusing system. This can cause headaches, sore eyes and decreased concentration, and all of these can lead to a decrease in performance.
When I work with children who have learning problems, one of the key elements of my eye test is to examine their performance for school or home work. Visual stress can decrease your performance at school or at work, and this should be an essential part of any eye testing.
The Best Eye Test is Comprehensive, and Bulk Billed
Finally, the best eye test is not only comprehensive, it is also Bulk Billed so that there are no out-of-pocket expenses for you. In my practice, eye testing is bulk bill even if you have seen another optometrist and had an eye check within the last 3 years.
So not all eye tests are the same, due to the difference in emphases of the person performing the eye test. My advice is to shop around until you find an Optometrist you like and trust and an eyesight test that is comprehensive and bulk billed. When you find that you are doing your eyes a great service!
You are entitled to the best eye test, so expect nothing less!