Your life and eyes 3 min read

What tests to expect when you visit the optician

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Visiting the optician may be a daunting prospect for nervous patients, particularly if it’s your first time having an eye examination. It is crucial to have regular eye examinations; this is because the optician will also take the opportunity to check for any health conditions or eye diseases, as well as testing your vision.

When visiting your local optician, your eyes will be examined by a professional who has been trained to recognise abnormalities or changes in your vision and eye anatomy. Your optician is able to prescribe the right lenses to correct your vision if necessary.

It is recommended that you have your eyes tested every 2 years unless you have been advised otherwise. Sometimes if you have a family history of eye health conditions, you may need to go back to your optician more frequently.

With that in mind, we have provided a brief overview of the tests you should expect when visiting the optician.

Woman having a slit lamp examination

Visiting the optician

Going for a routine eye examination shouldn’t be a scary experience, but it can be reassuring to know what to expect. The average eye examination can take around 20 minutes and is usually based on factors such as family health history or if you currently wear corrective lenses. Your visit will usually begin with a discussion about your lifestyle and if you’ve noticed any changes in your vision.

If you do wear lenses, it may be helpful to take them with you to your eye test. Your optician can use them to determine your current prescription and draw comparisons to any changes in your vision.

Routine eye tests to expect when you visit an optician

Not every eye examination will be the same for everyone, but you will probably experience the majority of these tests at some point over the years.

Eye chart

The eye chart, or Snellen chart as it is known in the industry, is one that you may be most familiar with. You will be asked to read letters from a chart in order to test your distance vision. Your optician may ask you to wear different lenses to test any difference in your vision; often asking if you can see better or worse as they change the lens.


The autorefractor instrument may be used to test how well your eyes focus. This can help your optician to provide an approximate prescription for your lenses. The autorefractor test usually requires you to look into a machine through two lenses, where you will need to focus on an image.


A phoropter is commonly used during an eye examination to measure your prescription by using different lenses within the machine. The optician will change the lenses and settings and will ask you which results in the best vision to determine your prescription. Sometimes a retinoscope is used through the phoropter head to measure your vision by shining light into your eye so that the optician can observe the reflection (reflex) off of your retina. This is particularly useful for infants, people who cannot talk or people who do not speak the same language as the optician.


When you visit the optician, they may use a non-contact tonometer. This is a routine test to check for possible glaucoma by measuring the pressure in each eye. The tonometer works by blowing a soft puff of air at each eye. It is not painful and can cause you to blink as a reaction.

Woman having an eye examination


In most cases, your optician may carry out an ophthalmoscopy test. Your optician will use a bright light to look into your eyes, in order to examine your retina. The light may be dazzling at first, and you will likely be asked to look at different directions as your optician looks around your eye. This can be helpful in checking the health of your eye.

Eyecare professional holding Opthalmascope

Slit lamp

If you often wear contact lenses, your optician may use a slit lamp during your eye examination. A slit lamp is a specialist microscope that allows the optician to check for abrasions and scratches. Even if you don’t wear contact lenses, your optician may carry out this test just to make sure your eye is free from damage.

There are a number of things you can do at home to help maintain healthy vision, but by visiting your optician every 2 years or sooner, you can ensure you are wearing the correct lenses and that any problems with your vision are picked up quickly.

Contact your local optician today to schedule an eye examination

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