Comprehensive Dilated Eye Exam


The comprehensive dilated eye exam is the only way to check for many eye diseases (such as glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy) before symptoms or permanent vision loss has occurred. This will make treatment easier and more likely to be successful.

The exam includes…

  • A visual acuity test that tests how clearly you see. This is a basic eye chart assessment.
  • A visual field test to check your peripheral (side) vision.
  • A pupil response and muscle function test. This tests how your eye reacts to a light shined into it, and how your eyes track a moving object (such as a pen).
  • An eye pressure test (tonometry), which may involve a puff of air or a device that barely touches the eye.
  • A dilation of your eyes, using eye drops. This will make your pupils wider, allowing the doctor to see inside your eye. The doctor will be able to look into the back of the eye at the retina, optic nerve, and macula — where many eye diseases present — and identify any issues you may have.

You may have blurry vision for a few hours after dilation, so you should have a friend or family member drive you, if possible.

National Institutes of Health National Eye Institute has a great video of the Comprehensive Dilated Eye Exam to help you learn more.

You should get a comprehensive dilated eye exam every one to two years if you:

  • Are over age 60
  • Are African American and over age 40
  • Have a family history of eye diseases, such as glaucoma

You may need an exam more often if you have diabetes or have other health conditions. Ask your doctor what he or she recommends.

If you do not have any of the risk factors mentioned above, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends you get a comprehensive dilated eye exam…

  • At age 40
  • Every two to four years at ages 40 to 54
  • Every one to three years at ages 55 to 64

School-age children should receive regular visual acuity and ocular alignment screenings at every primary healthcare visit, in schools, or at public screenings. Initial eye assessments for newborns and infants should occur with their primary care provider as well.