Vision Q&A: What’s the difference between a vision screening and a full eye exam?

Q: What’s the difference between a vision screening and a full eye exam?

A: Vision screenings performed at school or work are useful for determining whether you can see clearly, but often do not check for serious vision problems, eye diseases, or other health problems. They do not replace a comprehensive eye exam performed by a licensed optometrist.

Vision screenings are often performed by an untrained volunteer and not a skilled eyecare professional. Vision screenings are generally only partial eye evaluations that test your vision acuity (ability to see clearly at close and far distances) and check for the presence of basic symptoms of eye diseases. If a problem is detected, they suggest that you make an appointment with an optometrist.

A comprehensive eye exam examines both your vision acuity and the complete overall health of your eyes from front to back. A licensed optometrist can detect glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts, and other eye diseases that can lead to vision loss. They can also identify early signs of diabetes, high blood pressure, or even a stroke just by examining the inner structures of your eyes! If vision problems or symptoms of an eye disease are found, your optometrist will work with you to set up an effective treatment or correction plan.

Yearly comprehensive eye exams are an important part of your overall health care. Vision screenings often miss serious eye problems that comprehensive exams are designed to identify. Even if you don’t notice obvious changes in your vision, a yearly comprehensive eye exam can be the difference between retaining and losing your sight.

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