Contrary to popular belief, your eyes are not necessarily healthy even if you think your vision is great and you have no problem seeing everything at every distance. This is because a lot of eye diseases do not really carry any symptoms during the early stages. And due to that very reason, optometrists as a primary eye care provider are imperative to identify such issues through routine, comprehensive eye exams.
‘Sight Test’ ≠ Comprehensive Eye Examination
Despite the huge difference, a lot of people in Malaysia and Singapore often mix up the two terms. Although both terms are often used interchangeably but they are really different fundamentally. A sight test, in reality, is where your eye sight/vision is being tested. In a lot of cases, it merely involves checking the visual acuity (just a fancy term for vision) and determining the prescription for any glasses you might need.
In practice, a sight test is part of a comprehensive eye examination!
There’s more to an eye examination than just meets the eye. An eye examination, in theory, involves a whole load of tests to not only check for any refractive error (short-sightedness, astigmatism etc.) but also the HEALTH of the eyes.
And there’s really no point in carrying out a sight test without even examining the HEALTH of the eyes because one is merely wasting one’s time placing different lenses in front of a patient’s eye trying to improve the patient’s vision when in reality it’s some other underlying problems (eg. cataract) that cause the vision blurry. At the end of the day, not only the practitioner’s time is wasted but also the patient’s.
A lot of people in Malaysia and Singapore have never got the health of their eyes examined!
I, for one, have gone through so many years of only getting my SIGHT checked. And it’s in everyone’s best interest to learn to discern between a sight test and a comprehensive eye examination by knowing which eye care practitioner to look for when you want to get your eyes examined!
Primary eye care in Malaysia has been neglected for so many years until the country sees more and more optometrists being trained over these few years. And these optometrists are primarily involved in carrying out routine, comprehensive eye examinations and making clinical decisions after each eye test, be it prescribing corrective glasses/contact lenses, reviewing the patient on a regular basis , referring the patient to an eye doctor (ophthalmologist) etc.
Comprehensive eye examinations need to be carried out ROUTINELY
It is really worth noting that you don’t just go for an eye exam when you feel there’s something wrong with your eyes/vision or you have any other concerns. In fact, it is in everyone’s interest to get their eyes examined ROUTINELY (meaning you still go for an eye exam whether or not you have any concerns with your eyes) because the whole idea of primary eye care is to identify any sort of potential or developing eye diseases so early treatment/management can be done to minimize the risk of vision loss.
So the question is: how often should I get my eyes examined?
According to the College of Optometrists in the UK, people who are 16 years of age and above genrally need to get their eyes examined AT LEAST once every 2 years and younger people (below 16 years old) require more frequent eye exams (at 6-month or 1-year interval). Patients with certain eye conditions will need to have their eyes examined more often as well. Your eye care practitioner will usually tell you when your next eye exam is due at the end of the eye test.
I have created an infographic of the components of a comprehensive eye exam HERE!