An eye health check is not just about getting glasses – it is a vital health check for your eyes. Optometrists check for eye diseases such as macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma. A routine eye test can also pick up systemic disease such as diabetes, high blood pressure and even detect certain brain tumours so it is important to have your eyes tested whether you wear glasses or not.
Optometrist Patrick Mac says that often patients have no idea what to expect when it comes to an eye health check.
Here, he takes us through 5 things that you should expect when you next visit your optometrist.
A puff of air
When you first arrive for your eye health check, you will be taken through a number of preliminary measurements and scans to give the optometrist more information about your eyes.
“One of the first tests you will receive measures the intraocular pressure of your eyes with an instrument called a non-contact tonometer. This instrument will blow a puff of air at each of your eyes and then measure the force of the air that bounces back at the instrument.
“This is an important test, as high intra ocular pressures indicate high risk for glaucoma, much like high blood pressure indicates higher risk for heart disease. Nicknamed the ‘thief of sight,’ glaucoma has no early symptoms but if detected early through routine eye health checks, the disease can be managed very effectively,” says Patrick.
Checking your vision
The most obvious part of an eye health check is when your vision is checked.
“To do this, I normally use a phoropter, but can also use a number of other pieces of equipment. The phoropter comes down over the patient’s eyes. After checking basic vision, I then fine-tune my findings by asking you to read a test chart through different strength lenses. I test each eye individually at the start and then both together, until you have the clearest vision possible.
“Patients can have a variety of different vision problems, so this machine helps me determine what those are, and what we can do to help you see clearly. Sometimes these can be glasses or contact lenses, but they might also be eye exercises to practice at home or work.
“Sometimes patients have clear vision and don’t need any extra help with this. Even if this is the case, it is important they have their eyes checked because there may be things going on at the back of the eye that we need to know about,” says Patrick.
The slit lamp
A slit lamp is a powerful microscope that is used to examine the front surface of your eyes. This checks for any abnormalities or scratches on your cornea, iris and lens and is especially important for contact lens wearers.
It can also be used in combination with a high-powered hand held lens to provide a 3D view of the back of the eye.
“It is often when you’re sitting at the slit lamp that I will talk to you about your diet and lifestyle too. As an optometrist, I am able to give advice on what you could do to better protect your eyes from eye conditions or damage,” says Patrick.
Ocular Coherence Tomography, or OCT, is a device that is used by optometrists to capture a 3D scan of the eye.
“OCT is changing the landscape for optometrists nationwide. In just a few seconds, I can see a 3D scan of the eye which enables me to see the layers of your retina and check that they are healthy.
“I run this check on everyone at my practice for free as a part of the bulk-billed eye health check. I especially use it on those with conditions like diabetes as a way of checking for very early signs of eye conditions or diabetic complications,” says Patrick.
The final part of an eye health check is when the optometrist tells you if your eyes are looking nice and healthy or whether you need any further assistance such as a referral for specialist care or glasses. Along with this, the optometrist will tell you when they recommend you come back for another eye health check.
“We recommend that everyone come for a routine eye health check at least once every two years. If they are over the age of 60, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, every year. Saying that though, if you ever notice any changes in your eyes or vision, you should book to see an optometrist immediately,” says Patrick.