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What’s the Difference Between a Routine Eye Exam & a Comprehensive Eye Exam?

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A woman resting her head on the chin rest of a medical apparatus used in eye exams.

Regular eye exams are essential for maintaining healthy vision, and they give an optometrist the chance to monitor the health of both your vision and your eyes themselves. The terms “routine eye exams” and “comprehensive eye exams,” are common, so what’s the difference between them?

While both of these exams are designed to monitor and check your vision, they have some key differences. A routine eye exam focuses more on checking your vision, your necessary prescription, and determining how to fix it. Meanwhile, a comprehensive eye exam includes some aspects of vision testing but also focuses on the overall health of your eyes. 

Both of these tests are important to maintain clear vision and optimal eye health. You should visit your optometrist at least once a year to have your eyes and vision tested at least once every year.

What’s the Purpose of an Eye Exam?

Eye exams are tailored directly to your vision care. Performed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist, these exams are designed to check different aspects of your vision and eyes to determine how healthy they are. 

It’s recommended that adults over the age of 18 have their eyes checked at least once every 2 years so they can receive up-to-date information on their prescription and the overall health of their eyes. While there are several different ways your eyes can be tested, there are 2 exams that are more common than most: 

Each of these tests different aspects of your eyes and vision so an optometrist can determine your overall eye health.

What Does a Routine Eye Exam Include?

During a routine eye exam, your eye care professional will primarily focus on checking your vision and determining your prescription. This exam typically involves several tests designed to check your:

  • Visual acuity
  • Refractive error
  • Eye muscle coordination
  • Your peripheral vision

Alongside this, they may test how your eyes react to changes in light or how they react to sudden movements. They’ll then use this information to determine how clear your vision is and an appropriate method for vision correction.

What’s Involved During a Comprehensive Eye Exam?

A comprehensive eye exam goes beyond vision correction to determine a more complete evaluation of how healthy your eyes are. In addition to the tests usually performed during a regular eye exam, an optometrist will perform a more thorough examination of both the internal and external structure of your eyes.

By checking the overall health of your eyes, an optometrist or ophthalmologist can determine whether or not you have any eye conditions, how far potential conditions have progressed, or related damage or medical concerns related to your eyes. They can also check the health of your retina, optic nerve, and your eye pressure.

They’ll typically use eye drops to dilate your pupils so they can gain a more comprehensive view of the retina. This can help them gain a deeper understanding of how healthy your eyes are.

An optometrist applying artificial tears to his patient's right eye.

Which Eye Exam Is Right for You?

Determining what eye exam is right for your situation depends on several factors, including:

  • Your age
  • Overall eye health
  • Whether or not you have any existing vision problems
  • Any medical conditions you may have
  • If you’re experiencing any sudden vision changes
  • Whether or not you’ve noted any irritation or problems with your eyes

If you generally have healthy eyes, no known medical conditions, and you and the eye care professional believe you aren’t at risk of vision or eye problems, a routine eye exam is typically a good route to go. However, if you have any medical conditions or a history of eye problems, a comprehensive eye exam may be the better way to go.

However, if you’re unsure of which exam to schedule, it’s generally advised to schedule a comprehensive eye exam so you can determine the overall health of your eyes. This will allow the eye care professional performing the exam to thoroughly check your eyes and determine whether or not you have any potentially-developing optical conditions.

Eye Care in San Clemente

When it comes to maintaining your eye health, it’s essential to find a trusted and experienced eye care professional. Here at San Clemente Optometry, we know how important your eyes are to your everyday life, and we’re dedicated to focusing on thorough examinations to treat your eyes and keep your vision clear. 

Schedule an appointment with us today to see for yourself the high level of care we offer each and every person who walks through our doors.

Written by Total Vision

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