Ophthalmology Services
Lifespan Physician Group

Eye Exams and Care in Rhode Island

While you may not be having trouble with your vision, it’s important to have regular eye exams. An eye doctor learns a lot about your general health by examining your eyes. That is because your eyes and vision rely on other systems of your body, such as nerves and muscular control.

What Is an Eye Exam?

An eye exam will include a series of tests to evaluate the overall health of your eyes, monitor for eye diseases, and identify any vision issues you may be having. Each test examines a different aspect of your vision and eye health. Your eye doctor will use various instruments during the exam, including bright lights to shine in your eyes and a series of lenses to look through.

What Are the Different Types of Eye Exams?

Some of the different types of eye exams you may receive include:

Eye muscle test

This eye exam evaluates the muscles that control eye movement. Your eye doctor will ask you to follow a moving object, such as a pen or light, with your eyes. They will observe your eye movement to look for any muscle weakness, poor coordination, or poor control. 

Visual acuity test

This eye exam measures how clearly and accurately you can see. Your eye doctor will ask you to read different letters printed on a chart across the exam room. Each line of letters gets smaller as you move down the chart to test the degree of your visual acuity. Each eye is tested separately.

Refraction assessment

If you have a refractive error in your eyes, you may need some kind of vision correction, such as glasses, contact lenses, or surgery. Your eye doctor will determine the correct lens prescription to give you the sharpest, most comfortable vision. Your eye doctor may use a computerized refractor to estimate your prescription. They may use a retinoscopy, a procedure that involves shining a light into your eye and evaluating the movement of the light reflected by your retina through your pupil. They will then have you look through a device with wheels of different lenses and ask you to judge which combination of lenses gives you the clearest vision.

Visual field test

Your visual field is the extent you can see to either side, or periphery, without moving your eyes. This eye exam evaluates whether you have any difficulty seeing any part of your overall field of vision. Your eye doctor may provide a series of different visual field tests. If you aren’t able to see in certain areas, the pattern of your visual field loss can help your eye doctor diagnose your specific eye condition.

Color vision testing

If you have difficulty distinguishing certain colors, your eye doctor may screen you for a color deficiency by using dot-pattern tests. If you have no issue, you can identify differently colored numbers or shapes from the dot pattern. If you do have a color deficiency, you will have difficulty seeing certain patterns in the dots.

Slit lamp examination

A slit lamp is a type of microscope that magnifies and illuminates the front of your eye using a strong light. Your eye doctor will use the slit lamp to examine your eyelids, lashes, cornea, iris, lens and fluid chamber between your cornea and iris. Your eye doctor may use a colored dye to show any damaged cells on the front of your eye.

Retinal examination

This eye exam allows your doctor to examine the back of your eye, including the retina, the optic disk and the retinal blood vessels. Your doctor will use eye drops to dilate your pupils to keep them from shrinking when light is shined into them. Your doctor may use an ophthalmoscope to shine a beam of light through your pupil to see the back of the eye. Your doctor may also examine the inside of the eye using a condensing lens and a bright light.

Glaucoma screening

This eye exam measures the fluid pressure inside your eye to detect glaucoma, a disease that damages the optic nerve. Your doctor may use eye drops to temporarily numb your eye. Using the slit lamp, they will then use a tonometer to touch your cornea and determine the eye pressure. They may instead use a puff of air to estimate the pressure in your eye. If your eye pressure is higher than average or your optic nerve looks abnormal, your doctor might use a pachymeter, which uses sound waves to measure the thickness of your cornea.

When Should I Have an Eye Exam?

Several factors can determine how often you need an eye exam, such as your age, general health, and risk factors for developing eye issues.

For children three years and younger, your child's pediatrician will check for healthy eye development and look for common childhood eye problems.

For school-age children and adolescents, a comprehensive eye exam between the ages of three and five will monitor any issues with vision and eye alignment. Your child's doctor can recommend how often they should receive eye exams.

For adults, if you have no symptoms of vision problems, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends having a complete eye exam at age 40, when vision changes and eye diseases often begin. Your eye doctor can then recommend how often you should have eye exams. If you're 60 years or older, you should have your eyes checked every year or every two years. 

However, you should have your eyes checked more often if you:

●    Wear glasses or contact lenses

●    Have a family history of eye disease or vision loss

●    Have a chronic disease that puts you at risk of developing eye disease, such as diabetes

●    Take medications that have side effects that affect the eyes

Why Should I Have an Eye Exam?

Eye exams help detect any issues or diseases at their earliest stage, when they are the most treatable. Having regular eye exams means your eye doctor can monitor and identify any changes in your vision and help you correct or adapt to the changes before they become severe. An eye exam also gives your eye doctor insight into your overall health. Some symptoms of conditions that do not directly relate to the eye can manifest in your eyes or vision, such as high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, or cancer. Your eye doctor can then refer you to the appropriate treatment.

How to Prepare For Your Eye Exam

If you wear glasses or contact lenses, bring them with you to your appointment. Your eye doctor will check to make sure the prescription is correct for you.

If you will need to have your eyes dilated during your exam, bring sunglasses to wear after your appointment. Sunlight and other lights can cause discomfort to dilated eyes. You may want to have someone drive you home after your appointment.


What to Expect During an Eye Exam

A complete eye examination includes several steps. Certain new patient appointments could take up to three hours.

Your eye doctor will:

●    Ask questions about your vision and general health if it is your first visit.

●    Make a general assessment of the health of your eyes.

●    Check your visual acuity (the sharpness of your vision).

●    Discuss any issues you have, such as dry eyes, itching, or digital eyestrain.

●    Dilate your pupils by applying eye drops, so that the optic nerve and retina can be examined. The retina, the membrane at the back of your eye, captures images and relays information to the brain through the optic nerve.

●    Test for glaucoma, a condition that causes pressure to build inside your eye, potentially damaging the optic nerve.

●    Check whether you are color-blind.

●    Look for signs of cataracts, which cloud the lens, or macular degeneration, a disease that damages the retina. Both of these conditions significantly affect your vision, and progress with age.

●    Discuss the results of the exam with you, including your risk of developing eye disease and any measures you can take to protect your vision.

Our ophthalmologists can give you a routine eye exam and a prescription for eyeglasses to correct your vision if necessary. They also specialize in treating more complex conditions that can affect your eyesight.

Eye Exams Near Me

Lifespan Physician Group eye doctors see patients at convenient locations in Providence and East Providence. To make an appointment, please call 401-444-6551.

Learn more about the importance of regular eye exams