Dresden optometrist Carinha Trinh describes the steps involved in a regular eye exam.

Sometimes, walking into an optometry room feels a little like walking into a world of high-tech wizardry. All that machinery! All those knobs and dials!

Sadly, we don’t have the abilities of actual wizards (yet – we’re working on it). But we can at least explain how the machines work, and what happens during a routine eye exam.

Before you visit us, there are a couple of things to remember. Young children and older people often need a longer appointment, so let us know when booking. And always bring your glasses or contact lens prescription (or your actual glasses) when you come to see us.

We don’t offer free eye appointments, but we think our charges are fair. In Australia, we charge $71 but can bulk bill Health Care Card holders and children under 16 years old.


One of our optometrists will ask you questions to understand why you wanted an eye exam. He or she may refer to your previous prescriptions and records, to draw up a plan for the consultation and what happens afterwards.

We’ll also want to know:

  • Your occupation: this helps us work out the best solution for you. An office worker needs different lenses to a construction worker.
  • Your interests: do you have a hobby that involves lots of fiddly work? Then we’ll offer a different solution to you than we would to a hardcore sailor.

We might measure your glasses on our lensmeter, so we can understand what you’ve had in the past, and take into account how you feel the lenses performed. This may happen even if you’ve provided a prescription, as there can be small differences between what’s in the glasses and what’s on paper.


We will conduct a series of tests to assess your eye health, coordination, and vision. This will include what are known as the cover test, ocular motilities, pupil reactions and entering vision.

Next, we check the intraocular/eye pressure. There are several ways an optometrist may do this: the ‘puff of air’ test, or by using a tiny little plastic ball, or a plastic probe with anesthetic eye drops. This is important in order to assess your risk for glaucoma, among other conditions.


We may use different equipment to objectively assess your refractive error/glasses prescription. Equipment will vary from practice to practice, and techniques may also differ. All our optometrists use a trial frame, as we feel it’s the most natural way to test your eyes.

During your eye exam, look out for a tool called the Jackson Cross Cylinder: it’s used to measure the astigmatic component of your prescription.

There are several tests we might use to asses your binocular vision. The one shown here is the Howell card, which allows your optometrist to understand how your eyes coordinate.


We believe high-quality retinal photography is an essential part of any comprehensive eye exam, so we can record the appearance of your retina. It’s easier to detect disease earlier if we have accurate documentation of your eye.

We use slit lamps and microscopes that allow us to see your eyes under magnification, to assess different aspects of your eyes. This may include the tear film, eyelashes, eyelid glands, eyelid margins, conjunctiva, cornea, anterior chamber, aqueous, iris, lens and vitreous.

At this point, we may put an orange eye drop into your eye, to better assess the tear film. (It’s quite a funky shade of orange, and it doesn’t last long.)


With the help of an additional high-powered lens, we can image the back of your eye (retina), and get a 3D view of your optic nerve, macula, blood vessels and any other structures in your retina.

If needed, your optometrist may recommend a visual fields examination to assess your peripheral vision. This could happen if they suspect any neurological or vascular issues. You might need to return for this test if we cannot fit it in on the same day.


You might also come back for a dilated eye exam. During this, the optometrist opens up your pupils with eye drops, to get a better view and assess your eye health more thoroughly. We don’t recommend attempting to read, use the computer, or drive for 3-4 hours afterwards – your vision may be blurry and glarey.

If you’ve come in for a dilated eye exam as well as a general consultation, you may need to book a double appointment to ensure we have enough time to complete all tests required. It’s impossible for us to assess your entire eye without the help of dilation.

Voila! Now you’re ready for your eye exam. See you soon.

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