What is the Difference Between an Eye Exam and a Contact Lens Exam

Whether you think you need vision correction and are considering contact lenses, or whether you’ve been using glasses or contacts for years, you may be curious about the difference between a routine eye exam and a contact lens exam. Perhaps you’ve never thought about it, always assuming that both are one and the same. The truth is, there are some fundamental differences between these two types of exams. The information below will give you an overview about each type of exam and explain the difference between the two so that you can ensure you are scheduling the right type of appointment with your eye care professional.

Routine Eye Exam

A routine eye exam exists for the purpose of detecting vision problems, eye disease and general eye health issues. An eye exam can help identify any of these concerns before you are even aware that they exist. It is generally recommended that everyone have a routine eye exam every 1 to 3 years, depending on age, risk factors and physical condition.

What to Expect

Eye doctors use a variety of tests and procedures to examine your eyes. You will most likely be asked to read an eye chart. First you will read the chart with both eyes uncovered. Then you will read the chart while you cover one eye (and then the other eye). Your eye doctor will then perform tests which may or may not include these common tests:


For this test,the lights in the room are dimmed and you will be asked to focus your eyes on a target. While you stare at the target, a light will be shined into your eye and flip different lenses in a machine in front of your eyes. The way the light bounces off of your eye will provide a general approximation of what your prescription (should you need one) will be.


This test helps your eye care professional determine the exact level of augmentation that your vision requires. Refraction is done with a machine called a phoropter. The doctor will show you a series of lens choices and ask you which of the choices looks clearer. Based on your answers,the doctor will be able to determine your level of nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and/or presbyopia.

Slit-Lamp Examination

A slit-lamp is an instrument that allows your doctor to examine the health of your eyes using a machine that highly magnifies all the structures contained therein. This way,your eye doctor can examine each part of your eye to evaluate them for infection or disease.

There are various other tests that eye doctors can choose to use during an eye exam to determine the general health and well-being of your eyes. A contact lens exam is different in that it focuses on only one aspect of your eye health.

The Contact Lens Exam

If you wear contact lenses or are considering starting, you should make sure to schedule a contact lens exam versus a regular eye exam. Basically, your eye doctor will need to run tests that will evaluate the surface of your eye’s cornea in order to ensure a proper contact lens fit. Your doctor will also ask a series of questions about your lifestyle and preferences in order to determine the best type of contact lenses to prescribe for you. The doctor will measure the surface and curvature of your eye using an instrument called a kerameter. Then your pupil and iris will be measured. Finally, your eye doctor will select contact lenses for you and instruct you in proper insertion and care.

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