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Sight Saving Tests For Older Eyes

Many adults approach eye appointments the same way they would a yearly physical: they want to get in and out as fast as possible, so they just let the doctor do what they need to do: they take the eye drops and read the numbers off the chart as though they were saying ‘Ah’ and breathing when told.

But for seniors and older adults, an eye exam is never something that should be rushed or taken lightly. In the United States, vision loss affects more than 55 million people aged 55 and over. For this reason, it’s crucial that seniors develop an understanding of what their vision tests are examining, and why they’re so important, as their prescriptions and treatments will be based on the findings of these tests.   

There are a wide variety of tests that can be used to check your vision, and to focus on particular structures in your eyes. What your particular vision exam will entail will depend on your individual needs and circumstances, but below you’ll find information on some of the most commonly utilized tests:

Pupil Dilation FAQ: What You Need to Know

Often overlooked as a preliminary step before the real eye exams get underway, pupil dilation is actually an important eye test in and of itself. By dilating (or expanding) the pupil, the doctor is able to get a much deeper look at the internal structure of the eye; this is especially helpful for observing structures toward the back of the eye, such as the optic nerve, retina, and certain key blood vessels.

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about pupil dilation:

  • How will they dilate my pupils? Dilation is typically achieved through the use of eye drops, which are applied topically to the eye.
  • Do my pupils dilate right away? It usually takes about 20-30 minutes for the pupils to fully dilate.
  • What are some of the potential side effects of dilation? Many people experience sensitivity to light for a few hours, while others might notice that their eyesight is a bit blurrier than normal.
  • When will my eyes go back to normal? Your pupils should return to normal function in about 30-60 minutes, which is well-timed because a comprehensive eye exam will typically take an hour.
  • Is it safe to drive after having my pupils dilated? For obvious safety reasons, you should have someone else drive you home after your eye exam is over. And you may want to wear sunglasses for the ride home, as your eyes are more susceptible to UV damage when the pupil isn’t able to contract.


Visual Acuity Test

How sharp is your eyesight? That’s precisely what the visual acuity test, commonly known as the “eye chart test,” seeks to determine. Over the course of this test, you might read letters off of a sign that’s close to you, as well as off of a chart on the opposite wall, all in an attempt to measure your visual ability at near and far distances.

Cover Test

Most people are familiar with the cover test: the patient is asked to focus on a distant object while the optometrist alternately covers his or her eyes. This test reveals how successfully your eyes are able to work together when focusing on a far object. Moreover, the cover test allows the optometrist to identify eye turn, which, if left untreated, can lead to an assortment of conditions, such as poor depth perception and lazy eye.

Color Vision (Color Blindness Test)

It’s startling to think that almost 5% of people suffer from color blindness. Color vision testing measures your ability to recognize and distinguish colors. This typically involves looking at colored numbers formed out of dots, where the numbers are set against a background with a contrasting color; individuals suffering from color vision issues may see an incorrect number. Such color recognition tests are also helpful in screening for serious illnesses, as multiple sclerosis and some liver diseases, which can result in color blindness if left untreated.


doctor measures strength of corrective lens Why does it always have to be the “E”? That’s probably what you’re wondering during this test, as you sit in a dark room and focus on the large “E” of an eye chart projection. As you do this, the doctor is exposing your eyes to beams of light, and measuring their reflection, so as to approximate a diopter for your prescription; other steps need to be completed, however, before a correct prescription can be determined and provided to the patient. This test measure the strength of the corrective lens needed.

Slit-lamp Exam

When you look at an eyeball through a microscope, you’re going to see a lot of things you couldn’t before. Also known as a biomicroscope, a slit lamp is an instrument that provides the doctor with an enlarged view of the patient’s eye. As a result, the optometrist can take a close look at the patient’s iris, cornea, conjunctiva, and other internal structures. The slit-lamp exam isn’t always the most comfortable experience for patients, as it involves shining a bright light into the eye at close range. But the test is over very quickly, and it can detect macular degeneration and cataracts, so it’s critical for your eye health that you stay put!

Glaucoma Testing: How to Catch a Symptom-Less Condition

By the age of 65, approximately one person in three has some form of vision-reducing eye disease. The National Eye Institute had noted four major conditions that account for age-related eye diseases among the elderly – and glaucoma is certainly one of them.

Glaucoma comprises a group of disorders characterized by optic nerve damage and visual field loss. People with a family history of glaucoma, African Americans, and older adults are at higher risk for developing the disease. Glaucoma involves increasing pressure in the eye cavity, resulting in nerve damage and vision loss.

The National Institute on Health (NIH) states that 8% of people aged seventy and over have at least the beginning stages of this ailment, which is why testing for this condition is so vital for seniors; not to mention that glaucoma often doesn’t present with any symptoms.

Some of the most common glaucoma tests include:

  • Ophthalmoscopy
  • Visual Field
  • Tonometry
  • Gonioscopy
  • Nerve Fiber Analysis

Save Your Sight: Schedule a Comprehensive Eye Exam

Many seniors are unaware of just how crucial it is to receive regular eye examinations. Each of the tests outlined above gives your eye doctor key information about how your vision functions, and what issues are affecting the health of your eyes.

In general, individuals ought to receive a comprehensive eye exam at least every two years, but for everyone over age 60, The American Optometric Association recommends annual eye examinations. Age-related eye diseases can develop for quite some time before the individual starts to notice any vision issues, and that amount of time could ultimately mean the difference between a manageable eye problem and total blindness.

It’s vital that seniors and older adults remain vigilant of their eye care needs and receive regular examinations, as working with an optometrist and ophthalmologist boosts their chances of maintaining their eyesight as they age.