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How Long Does an Annual Eye Exam Take?

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Close up image of a phoropter.

Your annual eye exam is like a routine physical exam at your doctor’s office. It’s one medical appointment you shouldn’t be putting off, no matter how long it takes. 

Eye problems tend to get progressively worse, some without showing noticeable symptoms. That’s where annual eye exams come in. 

They can help detect eye diseases and conditions in their early stages. Your eye doctor can help prevent vision loss and permanent damage with prompt diagnosis and management.

But how long does an annual eye exam take? Let’s find out by looking at eye exams, what they entail, and what determines how long they’ll take. 

What Are Annual Eye Exams?

An annual eye exam is a comprehensive assessment of your vision and eye health. They play a crucial role in preventative care and as a tool to check for eye diseases and other health problems, such as:

According to the American Optometric Association, children should have multiple eye exams during early development or as recommended by their eye doctor:

  • Between 6 and 12 months
  • At least once between 3 and 5 years
  • Once before starting school
  • Annually from 6 to 17 years

For adults:

  • Annually between 18 and 64, or more often as needed.
  • Annually for 65 and older, or possibly more frequently if there are any eye health issues that are being actively monitored or treated. 

Tests Involved in an Annual Eye Exam

Together with the following tests, your eye doctor will also discuss medical and vision history and ask about your specific needs or concerns. 

  • Visual Acuity: Visual acuity tests your vision at varying distances in both eyes, together and individually. 
  • Refraction Testing: Using a phoropter, your eye doctor will determine the correct prescription for contacts or lenses for a refractive error. 
  • Eye Movement Test: This test checks eye alignment, coordination, and muscle movement.
  • Visual Field Test: This maps your peripheral vision—what you can see at the edges of your visual field without moving your eyes.
  • Pupil Reaction: The pupil reaction test checks how the pupils react to light.
  • Slit Lamp Test: This uses a microscope to check the external and internal parts of the eyes. 
  • Retinal Exam: Examines the retina, blood vessels, and fluid at the back of the eye. 
  • Tonometry: Measures intraocular pressure
  • Pupil Dilation: Although not always performed, dilating the pupils allows the eye doctor to get a better look inside the eyes.  
Smiling female optometrist holding up a pair of glasses in her left hand and a contact lens case in her right hand.

How Long Is an Annual Eye Exam?

Knowing how long your annual eye exam takes can help you plan better. Generally, an average eye exam can take between 30 minutes and one hour. 

It can take longer with additional tests if a patient has a specific complaint or concern that the eye doctor needs to address. The length of your annual eye exam can also depend on the following factors: 

  1. Your age
  2. Your family and medical history
  3. It’s your first visit or eye exam.
  4. You have concerns about symptoms.
  5. You wear glasses.
  6. You want contact lenses and already wear glasses.
  7. You have an eye disease or condition.
  8. You have a pre-existing medical condition that puts you at risk for developing an eye condition, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
  9. You have a dilated eye exam.

If you have a dilated eye exam, your appointment may be longer. It can take between 30 and 40 minutes with time for your eyes to dilate fully. The effects of dilation can also last anywhere from 4 to 6 hours. 

Preparing for Your Eye Exam

There are some things you can do before to prepare for your eye exam:

  • Have a list of questions you wish to ask your eye doctor
  • Make a note of any medications you are taking
  • Update your eye doctor on changes to family or medical history
  • Bring your contact lenses or glasses to your eye exam appointment
  • Bring sunglasses if you have your eyes dilated to protect them from bright light and glare

Scheduling Time for Eye Exams

Knowing what an annual exam entails makes you better prepared for how long it can take and how much time you may need from your schedule. Making annual eye exams a priority in your life can safeguard your vision. 

If you still have questions about eye exams, call or book an appointment with Signature Eye Care today.

Written by Dr. Jonathan Knutson

As a Doctor of Optometry, Dr. Knutson’s commitment to patients is his ongoing professional education. He takes pride in staying up-to-date as technology changes to ensure he can provide the latest and greatest care for your eyes. Dr. Knutson enjoys entertaining and is committed to providing a fun and enjoyable experience for his patients. He genuinely cares about his patients, placing utmost importance on the satisfaction of his care and products.
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