Spectrum Family Eye Care

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  Hamilton - 905.575.3937
Burlington - 289.337.4444

What to Expect During Your Eye Exam

Annual eye exams are essential in protecting your vision and health. Before the actual exam your optometrist will ask you a few questions about your vision history. If you currently wear contacts or glasses, it is a good idea to bring them to your appointment.

During your comprehensive eye exam, a series of tests are performed to assess your vision and the overall health of your eyes. The entire process takes anywhere from twenty
minutes to over an hour, depending on your eye doctor and the procedures that must be done to fully assess your vision and the health of your eyes. Here are some of the tests that you will likely encounter at our Hamilton and Burlington offices:

Visual Acuity

Most people are familiar with the Snellen letter chart, which is used to check the sharpness of your vision. Your optometrist will have you read letters of varying sizes from the chart to determine how well you can see them from across the room. To test your near vision, a smaller, hand-held chart is used.

Cover Test

This simple test is used to see how well your eyes work together. Your optometrist will have you focus on a small object across the room, then alternately cover each eye. Then he will do the test again, but have you look at something closer.

Color Blindness Test

Usually performed during your initial exam, this test will rule out color blindness. Although color blindness can be hereditary, the test can help your eye doctor rule out certain eye health problems.


During this test, the lights will be dimmed and your optometrist will shine a light in each eye as you fixate on a large target. He or she will use a machine to flip different lenses in front of your eyes and observe how the light reflects from your eyes. This will give your eye doctor a “rough estimate” of what your eyeglass prescription should be.


This procedure is similar to retinoscopy, except here your eye doctor will ask you which lenses are clearer as different ones are placed in front of each eye. Your answers will help refine the lens power and ultimately determine your final eyeglass prescription.

Slit-Lamp Examination

The slit lamp is a microscope that enables your optometrist to look closely at both the external and internal structures of your eyes. He or she will have you place your chin on the chin rest, then shine the lamp’s light into your eye. This highly magnified view will reveal signs of infection or disease.

Aside from these procedures, your eye doctor may recommend that more specialized tests be performed. If you live in or around Hamilton, Burlington, St. Catharines and you have any questions regarding your eye exam, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Pupil Dilation

To obtain a better view of the eye’s internal structures (retina, optic nerve, macula and blood vessels), your eye doctor may put dilating drops in your eyes to enlarge your pupils. Dilating drops usually take about 15 minutes to start working, and their effects usually last 3-4 hours, sometimes a little longer. Once they have been added to your eyes the doctor may ask you to sit in the waiting room until your pupils are dilated.

When your pupils are dilated you will be more sensitive to lights. For this reason, you may want bring a pair of sunglasses with you to your eye exam. You may also have difficulty focusing on objects up close, like your cell phone. These are
temporally symptoms of the drops and will wear off in approximately 3-4hrs.

With your eyes dilated, your eye doctor will use various instruments and lenses to look inside your eyes in more detail. Pupil dilation is very important for people with the necessary risk factors, since it provides the most thorough evaluation of the inside of the eye.

Visual Field Test

Though not part of your regular eye health examination, in some cases your eye doctor may want to check for the presence of blind spots (also called scotomas) in your peripheral or “side” vision. Regular visual field testing is a necessary part of diagnosing and managing glaucoma. The visual field test is performed at Spectrum Family Eye Care using the universally accepted Humphrey visual field machine.

Analysis of blind spots is also critical when assessing overall brain function, and people on certain medications, like Plaquenil. Visual field tests can reveal how your vision has been affected by strokes and tumors, and is often involved in the diagnosis of such conditions.

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