Getting Your Annual Eye Exam? Here’s What to Expect

Jan 18, 2021 | Eye Health, Patient Resources | 0 comments

Be honest — when was the last time you got your annual eye exam? It seems to be the one part of our health that gets pushed aside more than any other. 

As Nanodropper has covered in previous blog posts, the problem starts with most health insurance policies not including vision coverage. Nearly half of Americans do not enroll in vision insurance, leaving a huge segment of the population having to navigate their eyecare without financial support. This causes many people to let their eye health fall through the cracks. 

Eye exams range in cost, but many sources say the average is in the $70 range

“Even if you don’t have vision insurance, annual eye exams are important for early eye disease detection,” says Dr. Thanh Pham, an Optometrist serving the Greater Seattle Area. “In most of the USA, for under $100, you can see your local optometrist for a full ocular examination.”

What to expect

Here is a breakdown of what you should expect at a typical eye exam for that investment — hopefully you’ll agree that it is money well spent!

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the typical eye exam will cover these topics about your health:

  • Medical history

  • Visual acuity

  • Pupils

  • Side vision

  • Eye movement

  • Prescription for corrective lenses

  • Eye pressure

  • The front part of your eye

  • Retina and optic nerve

Medical History

Your eyecare professional will want to learn about any history of medical conditions in your family, any medications you take, and if you wear glasses.

They will also examine the front of your eye with what’s called a slit-lamp microscope. The front of your eye includes the eyelids, cornea, iris, and lens, according to the AAO. The slit-lamp will help test for cataracts, scarring, or scratches on your cornea.


Visual Acuity

You’ll be asked to read an eye chart to test visual acuity. This will assess how well you can see at various distances. This determines whether you have 20/20 vision. If you want to try from home, here’s some tips on how to do it!

You’ll also be asked to look through a device called a phoroptor, which contains different lenses that will determine the best eyeglass or contact lens prescription for you.


Pupils, Peripheral Vision, And Eye Movement

Your pupils can be checked by shining a bright beam of light into your eye. The way your pupils respond will determine a great deal about your eye health — if they get smaller, great! If they don’t respond or get bigger, this may reveal an issue.

Peripheral vision loss is a strong indicator of glaucoma, so this is something that should be checked. Since glaucoma has no symptoms early in the disease and side vision loss isn’t easily noticeable, this test might reveal eye problems that you can’t feel (…or see!). And the ocular motility test will make sure your eyes are properly aligned and the eye muscles are functioning how they should.

Eye Pressure

Intraocular pressure (or IOP) is another strong indicator of eye health. Elevated IOP can damage the optic nerve and could be a sign of glaucoma being present, so this is an important measurement to take. This measurement is usually taken by an air puff test or with a tonometer, a small instrument that the doctor will gently press against your eye.

The Optic Nerve

This is where those dilating eyedrops come in. The drops widen your pupils, allowing your eyecare professional to examine the optic nerve and retina for signs of disease or damage. Be careful! Your eyes might be sensitive to light for a couple hours after the exam.


Nanodropper is committed to sharing valuable information and resources with the public. Our mission is to serve as many patients as possible by empowering them to take back control of their eye health. If you are unable to pay for an eye exam for you or your loved one, there are people and organizations around the world that are dedicating time and resources to help. 

The National Institute of Health offers a list of resources for those seeking access to affordable eye care. Lions Club International is a worldwide network of chapters who have dedicated volunteers and locations across America, ready and willing to help. Visit their website to search for a chapter near you. Here are some resources to find exams that might be administered online. And here is some information on how to choose an eyecare professional.

And the Nanodropper team wants to help as well! We are committed to providing up to date, vital information regarding access to eye health. If you have a specific need that isn’t being met and you don’t know where to turn, email us at support@nanodropper.com. 

If you know anyone who might benefit from a Nanodropper but can’t afford one, we encourage you to explore our Give the Gift of Vision program. We’re committed to preserving your vision, one drop at a time!

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