What Is The Difference Between A Routine Eye Exam And A Comprehensive Eye Exam?

One of the best ways to protect the long-term health of your eyes and your vision is to make sure that you attend regular eye exams with your eye doctor. However, there is a lot of confusion around eye exams, and this primarily due to the different names that are used to describe eye appointments that are designed to check the health and condition of your eyes, and of course the effectiveness of your actual vision itself. These include but aren’t limited to:

-          Vision screenings

-          Medical eye exams

-          Routine vision exams

-          Comprehensive eye exams


Many people make the mistake of thinking that all eye exams are the same, but this is absolutely not the case. So, what is the difference between a routine eye exam and a comprehensive eye exam? Read on to find out more…

What is a routine eye exam?


The main purpose of a routine eye exam is to identify if you are suffering from a vision impairment such as a refractive eye error. Refractive eye errors are extremely common, accounting for around 80% of vision impairment in the United States. The most prevalent is myopia, beer known as short-sightedness. This is where the patient can see objects close to their face clearly, but those that are further away appear blurred or distorted. Other refractive eye errors include hyperopia (far-sightedness), astigmatism and presbyopia.


Refractive errors are caused by the light in the eye not being reflected normally, and not hitting the light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye properly. This causes the images that are sent to your brain to appear distorted and blurred, making it hard or even impossible for you to focus on them. Patients with refractive eye errors might also experience other symptoms including glare, halos around light sources, headaches and eye strain.


A routine eye exam will assess how well you can see at different distances and whether you would benefit from refractive error correcting devices such as glasses or contact lenses. If this is the case, your eye doctor will determine what prescription you will need and will organize your corrective eyewear. If you select glasses, you will receive advice on selecting the right type of lenses and frames based on your requirements. Similarly, if you choose contact lenses, you will be advised which contact lenses will best suit your needs and given a contact lens fitting which will ensure that your lenses are easy and comfortable to wear.


A routine eye exam can usually be carried out in less than 30 minutes and in most instances, patients are recommended to attend them at least once every two years.

What is a comprehensive eye exam?

A comprehensive eye exam is very different from a routine eye exam because, in addition to checking for refractive eye errors, your eye doctor will also evaluate the overall health of your eyes by screening you for common eye diseases. Exactly what will happen at your comprehensive eye exam can vary between providers, but typically you may be given the following assessments:

-          A visual acuity test, as is performed in a routine eye exam.

-          A cover test, where one eye is covered so that your eye doctor can evaluate how the eyes work independently of one another.

-          A test to check your depth perception.

-          An ocular motility test to test the movement of the eyes.

-          A slit lamp exam which enables your eye doctor to check the shape of the eyeball and spot any abnormalities.

-          Pupil dilation, which enables your eye doctor to look into your eyes to check for the presence of any internal eye diseases.

-          Glaucoma testing, which checks the pressure inside your eyes.


All of the tests in a comprehensive eye exam should be painless and your eye doctor will explain to you what to expect and why each test is important. Regularly attending a comprehensive eye exam will give your eye doctor a greater opportunity to pick up any of the many common eye diseases that could potentially affect the health of your eyes and your vision. These include glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, keratoconus, binocular vision dysfunction and more. In identifying them early on, you could potentially prevent any damage to your vision or eye health.


Most eye doctors recommend that patients attend a comprehensive eye exam at least once every two years, although if you have a pre-existing eye condition, the frequency with which you are asked to attend could be increased.


For more information on a routine or comprehensive eye exams, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our expert team of eye care specialists today.

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