When people think about getting an eye test from an optometrist, the usual assumption is that all eye tests are the same. The fact is eye tests are usually quite different from one another. I like to use food analogies. You can have a quick ‘fast food’ type of eye test that simply gets the basic job of filling your tummy (prescription). You can eat at an average restaurant, which has customer service. Or, you can eat at a high quality restaurant where each dish is uniquely made with care. Think about the difference between bread at a fast food restaurant versus that at a Michelin Hat-rated restaurant. Eye tests are exactly the same.
Essentially all optometrists use the same tools, just as most bread is made with flour and water, but a 15-minute eye test is never going to be as worthwhile as a comprehensive optometry analysis. At an express eye test the optometrist will quickly look at your eyes, work out your prescription, tell you what they think you need after reading the prescription’s numbers, and then send you out to a salesperson (who ironically then spends a lot of time selling you different types of frames and lenses).
The truth is, no eye test should ever be the same in terms of time taken, the number of different tests performed, and the types of tests done. At a quick eye test it’s a one-size-fits-all approach. Everyone gets the same assessment, and it’s cheap. In reality, no two people are exactly the same, so for the best outcome possible a comprehensive eye test is needed.
A truly comprehensive eye test cannot be rushed, because the optometrist takes their time discovering everything they can by talking to the patient. We look at what your unique problems are, and then perform specific eye tests tailored to these problems. Finally, we attempt to diagnose the cause of your sight or vision problem.
Patient and finicky optometrists know if a patient says that they have a problem, it’s whether or not the practitioner can discover the source of the problem that is important.
For example, we once had a patient whose ears would make a buzzing sound whenever he read a book. In order to find a new lens, we got him to read a book through both long-distance and short-distance lens combinations to see when his ears made the buzzing sound. Interestingly the ears didn’t buzz with all types of lenses.
The point here is, if you see a problem do you just check the sight, or do you take the time to look at the situation in more depth? Note: buzzing ears can be a side effect of poor vision, as the audio and visual parts of the brain are located in the same region.
Another case in point came from a mother who said her child had no visual problems. We ask questions and it results in important information being uncovered. For example, we asked if the child found it difficult to read, whether she skipped lines of text, and if she was a slow reader. We then found out the young girl had always been a poor reader, to the point that she was placed in a specialised reading group and even told to see a speech pathologist! These related points were discussed after the initial testing result; it was only then that the mother told us her child’s history.
What is most pertinent here is that the child would have passed a normal 15-minute eye test. It is for this reason that her vision problems were not picked up by the school nurse. The irony is some parents don’t share information because they don’t want there to be a problem. They want the optometrist to discover the problem on their own, not understanding that their assistance could help us find it.
In reality, the young girl had very strong eye muscles, which is why she would have passed the average eye test. Her eyes were strong enough to compensate for her farsightedness, but at the expense of her reading abilities. The solution was a long-sighted prescription. Once fitted with the right lenses she could see more clearly both near and far, thereby improving her reading abilities. So, do you want your eye test to simply tick the boxes, or to comprehensively assess, diagnose, and treat any potential problems?
A third instance came from a person that had just been given a new contact lens prescription, but who had incredibly red eyes. After discussion we discovered they’d always had red eyes when wearing contact lenses, but had never done anything about it. It’s strange that no other optometrist had said anything to him about his red eyes. The man had come to us not for a prescription, but simply just to re-order new contact lenses. However, I’m a fussy ‘busy body’ (in my own words), so I performed a number of tests to try and ascertain why he had such red eyes.
When it comes to contact lenses, you shouldn’t always give the patient the same brand they used previously. To find the best solution, you need to look through all of the brands and options. When the patient tries on each pair, we ask them how they feel. They often say, ‘They feel fine,’ as they’ve never known better, until we show them alternative choices. This time, all of a sudden we heard the words, ‘Wow, these feel great!’ We didn’t need to ask about his red eyes, and we didn’t need to try all of the different contact lenses – but we did, and he no longer has a problem that had plagued him for years.
When eating soup, you just need a spoon; you don’t need a knife or fork. Most optometrists have a lot of fancy tools that look very impressive, but the key is in knowing what needs to be used for each individual person. We know what we know, and if your issue needs a particular type of expert (E.G. for cataract surgery, glaucoma etc), we’ll refer you to a specialist. At Visual Q Eyecare we specialise in comprehensive eye tests. Please give Visual Q Eyecare a call on 03 9866 3880, or come in and see us at 91 Toorak Road South Yarra, and you can be sure you’ll be receiving the best eye test possible.
Thanks to D’Oh Boy and jing.dong for the images.