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Everything You Need to Know About Having a Contact Lens Exam

woman sitting at machine getting her contact lens exam

Vision change is one of those things people tend not to realize at first. Then, one day, you notice that you can no longer read a street sign from as far away as you once could. Perhaps you catch yourself adjusting where you hold your phone to read the screen.

Vision issues affect many of us at some point in our lives. Still, that doesn't make it any less stressful when you have a contact lens exam coming up. If this is your first exam and you aren't sure what to expect, this article will help.

How to Prepare for Your Contact Lens Exam

As with most things in life, preparation can help you have a more successful eye exam. Here are a few ways you can get ready:

Take Note of Your Concerns

We tend to mentally compensate for vision problems without noticing it. When you speak with your eye doctor, though, you want to be able to describe the problems you're having.

Start taking note of what environments give you the best and worst vision. Try varying distances and media. For instance, is it easier to read text on a page rather than words the same size on a backlit screen?

Try to describe what you see as much as possible. Consider whether you're seeing a "glow" around light sources, whether certain objects are blurry, and more. The more information you can give your doctor, the better they'll be able to ensure your contacts meet your specific needs.

pieces of paper on a desk with the words who, what, where, why, when, how

Make a List of Questions to Ask

One of the best ways to get a good result from your contact lens exam is to ask the right questions. Even if the questions seem obvious, it's easy to forget them in the moment, so make a written list.

When you're thinking about questions for your eye doctor, consider any complaints you have about your vision. If you wear glasses, think about what complaints you have about them, if any.

eye doctor examining patient’s vision

What to Expect During Your Exam

At your eye exam, you'll go through several types of tests and tasks during your visit. Keep in mind that contact lens exams can vary from one doctor to the next. However, here's a likely rundown:

Your Medical History

Before you see the doctor, you'll fill out all the paperwork you'd expect including a medical history and family history. Some eye conditions tend to run in families. Certain medical conditions can also affect your eye health. Make sure to be honest and thorough.

Eye Pressure Test

Either your eye doctor or an assistant will test your eye's pressure. During this test, they'll use a small instrument to flash a tiny puff of air at your eye. It might startle you, but it's painless and the test lasts a fraction of a second.

Measuring Your Approximate Prescription

Before you use the old vision chart, your eye doctor will try to gauge your most likely contact lens prescription with an easy test. You'll sit in front of a machine with a chin rest and a lens for each eye. As you focus on an image in the lenses, the doctor flashes lights and watches how your eyes respond.

Eye Health Inspection

During the exam to assess your eyes’ health, your eye doctor looks into the deeper levels of your eyes to look for signs of health problems. You'll look into a machine that looks similar to the one above: a chin rest with lenses for you to look into.

Next the doctor will have you focus on different areas, like their ear, while they use lights and magnification to look into your eyes.

close up of dilated pupil

Possible Pupil Dilation

In some cases, your eye doctor may want to take a closer look at certain parts of your eye. This is a challenge when your pupil naturally constricts in response to bright lights.

In these cases, your eye doctor may put drops into your eyes that stop your pupils from constricting. It's not painful, but it will make your eyes very sensitive to light for several hours.

Be sure to ask your eye doctor ahead of time if they will dilate your pupils. If so, you should have someone else drive you because it may be unsafe to drive with dilated pupils, especially on a bright, sunny day.

Possible Visual Field Test

In some cases, your eye doctor may do a visual field test. This looks for blind spots in your vision. As you look into a specialized machine, you'll have a clicker to press every time you see an image flash.

Visual Acuity Test

To test your vision and measure what prescription you need, your eye doctor will do a visual acuity test. You'll look at a chart with different sizes of letters. The doctor will put varying prescriptions of lenses in front of your eyes and determine which is the best fit for your eyes.

Fitting and Discussing Your Options

With all the information your doctor has gathered, they'll determine what prescription you need. They may measure your eye and/or test how well your eye produces tears to find out what contacts are the best fit for you.

There are plenty of options when it comes to contacts, so this is the time to discuss your choices. Talk to your doctor about daily contacts vs. extended wear contacts.

At this point, your eye doctor will also give you some contacts to try on. They'll be able to tell you what sensations to expect and how to get used to your contacts. In most cases, you'll start by wearing them for an hour or two per day and increase the time little by little.

Your eye doctor will also give you instructions about how to care for your new contacts. Make sure you find out what to do if you have problems with your contacts and how to know if you may need a different type of contact lens.

Getting Ready for Your Contact Lens Exam

Like any doctor's appointment, a contact lens exam can seem stressful. However, keeping in mind your end goal -- clear vision and comfortable contact lenses - will get you through this rather painless exam.

After your exam, with your contact lens prescription in hand, you’ll be all set to shop for contact lenses at We’re proud to offer you the top brands at the lowest prices.

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