The digital revolution is well underway, and it seems like everyone carries smartphones wherever they go. Many services that were traditionally offered in person are now available through websites and mobile apps, like banking and investing programs, and even video-based counseling and physician exams, for example. In an effort to simplify the process of obtaining a prescription for eyeglasses, vision testing is now available online, too. However, these services can’t (and should never) replace a comprehensive exam by a trained ophthalmologist.

    Understanding Online Vision Tests

    When you have lost or broken your glasses and you need a fast replacement, online vision tests can be a huge time-saver. Instead of scheduling an appointment and going in for a new prescription, you simply use your mobile device to complete a series of basic vision-measurement activities similar to the refraction tests you take in your doctor’s office. In less than 30 minutes, you have your results, and many of the services offer to forward the information to a licensed ophthalmologist for a prescription. While this is a quick way to solve an immediate problem, online vision tests do not replace your annual comprehensive ophthalmologist exams.

    An Overview of Comprehensive Ophthalmologist Exams

    Your annual ophthalmologist exam is an opportunity to check your vision, and more importantly, your overall health. Most people want to be sure their glasses permit them to see well, so they can read, work and drive safely. However, the vision check is just a small portion of your ophthalmologist exam. The convenience of an online test should not be prioritized over proper care from a trained optometrist or ophthalmologist. 

    During your in-person visit, your physician looks at the total health of your eyes, ensuring that you don’t have the start of serious diseases. In addition to reviewing a complete family history, ophthalmologists evaluate color vision, depth perception, peripheral vision, eye muscle movements and your pupils’ response to light. You can also expect an examination of your corneas to determine their curvature — a critical element for proper fit of contact lenses.

    Healthy eyes

    Preventing Diseases That Threaten Your Vision

    Most important, the tests performed by your ophthalmologist are specifically designed to diagnose serious conditions that could impact your vision. A common example is the puff test, which measures the pressure of fluid in your eyes. High pressure may require additional testing and treatment, as this is a sign of glaucoma. Your physician also has special equipment that allows a look inside your eyes, which is an opportunity to look for signs of cataracts, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. This sort of care is critical to your vision, as the progression of these diseases can be slowed or even stopped with early intervention.

    There is a place in your eye-care repertoire for online vision tests. They offer a chance to quickly solve an urgent need for replacement eyeglasses and contact lenses. Those who can’t get to a physician right away can start with an online exam. However, there are limits to what automated online tests can offer. Also, many of these online vision tests have a fee and patients should check with their insurance provider as the cost likely won’t be covered.

    While online vision exams appear to be helpful with measuring how well you can see, they cannot determine whether your eyes are healthy. Many serious diseases of the eye have no early symptoms, and your vision changes so gradually that you don’t notice until the loss is significant. Your annual ophthalmologist exam is an opportunity to ensure that any issues are caught early, so you can begin treatment right away.

    Posted September 13, 2017 by Silverstein Eye Centers
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