Are Vision Screenings and Eye Exams the Same?

The terms vision screening and eye exam are often used interchangeably. However, there are important distinctions between the two that many patients are unaware of. In this blog post, our Charleston vision experts explain the differences between the two and why eye exams are important, even if you have passed a vision screening.

Vision Screenings are Limited in Scope

Vision screenings are brief tests that can help determine whether someone is at risk for common vision problems such as nearsightedness and farsightedness. In most cases, vision screenings only check a person’s visual acuity (clarity of vision at a distance). This involves identifying the smallest letters you can read on a vision chart (Snellen chart) while covering one eye at a time. Children typically get their vision screened at school by a nurse, while adults may get their vision screened when they apply for a driver’s license or when attending a health fair. These screenings usually take only a few minutes to complete and are performed by volunteers who are not eye care professionals.

Vision screenings cannot diagnose vision problems or eye diseases. Instead, individuals who fail a vision screening are encouraged to schedule an appointment with a board certified eye doctor for a professional diagnosis.

It is important to note that passing a vision screening does not signify a clean bill of eye health. Vision screenings are limited; they cannot detect serious eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration.

Comprehensive Eye Exams Can Detect Eye Diseases

Only a board-certified optometrist or ophthalmologist can conduct a comprehensive eye exam. Not only do eye exams test visual acuity, they also evaluate the health of the eyes, from front to back using special tests and equipment. Tests can include those that check signs for cataracts, glaucoma and detached retina. Depending on the specific tests performed, an eye exam can take one to two hours to complete.

Eye exams are important for two reasons. First, many eye diseases can go undetected because they do not exhibit any symptoms in their early stages. Second, eye exams can detect signs of certain health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and risk of stroke based on the condition of the structures within the eye. For these reasons, everyone — including individuals with a history of good eye health — should get their eyes examined by a board-certified ophthalmologist or optometrist regularly.

How often you need to get your eyes examined will depend on a variety of factors, including your age, family history of eye disease, overall health and whether you currently use prescription eyewear.

If you would like to schedule a comprehensive eye exam, please contact the vision practice of Dr. Kerry Solomon. All routine eye exams are conducted by our board certified optometrist Dr. Jeffrey Hood, who has years of experience diagnosing and treating various eye conditions. To schedule an appointment, please contact our Charleston vision practice at (843) 881-3937.

Recent Articles