Eye Exams at Alabama Eye & Cataract Center at UAB Highlands in Birmingham, AL

By Marc Michelson, M.D.

Comprehensive Eye Exams
As part of the full range of eye care services we offer at Alabama Eye & Cataract Center, P.C. we are happy to provide routine eye exams for eye health, vision correction for eyeglasses and contacts, as well as cataract eye exams, diabetic eye exams and glaucoma eye exams and screening. We strongly recommend that all patients have routine eye examinations on a regular basis. 

How Often Should I Have My Eyes Examined?
The frequency of your eye examinations depends on many factors. Your age, general health, family history of eye problems and history of treatment for any eye conditions or diseases in the past will determine how often the eye doctors at Alabama Eye & Cataract Center, P.C. suggest that you schedule your visits.

When you schedule a general eye examination at Alabama Eye & Cataract Center, P.C., it will consist of complete testing of your vision and a comprehensive medical evaluation of the health of your eyes.

Your Health and Eye History
A complete medical history will be taken from you regarding your current general health, any previous eye problems or conditions that you have experienced and a review of any problems that you might be experiencing with your vision or your eyes. This will be important information to provide during your screening process. If you have any chronic health problems, even if they are currently stable, it is important that you share this information as well. Please be sure to tell us if you are currently a smoker or have even smoked n the past as today we know that many eye problems, conditions and diseases can be accelerated by smoking. 

Please be sure to tell the eye us about any medications you are taking for these medical conditions, including over the counter medications or eye drops that you may have been using. They are all important.

Your family history will be reviewed with you as well. Please tell us about any health problems that run in your family such as diabetes and high blood pressure.  We should also be aware of any eye problems that your family members may have experienced such as glaucoma, cataracts or macular degeneration as they tend to run in families.

The Eye Examination
Your eye examination will begin with a technician taking a measurement of your vision, or visual acuity, with your current eyeglasses or contact lenses. Chances are that if you wear eyeglasses or contact lenses, some of the letters on the “Big E” eye chart will be blurry without them. You will be asked to read a chart projected across the examination room that consists of numbers and letters that get progressively smaller and more difficult to read as you move down the chart. This test, called “Snellin Acuity” or just “Visual Acuity” it is an important first step to understanding how well you see.

A Refraction will be performed in order to determine the most accurate eyeglass or contact lens prescription necessary to fully correct your vision. This entails having you sit behind an instrument called a Phoroptor, so that the doctor can present a number of lens combinations to determine which corrects your vision most precisely. For those patients who wear eyeglasses or contact lenses, you have probably experienced the “which is better” test called refraction.  If you require vision correction your eye doctor will provide you with a copy of your prescription and you may take it to the Optical Shoppe at Alabama Eye & Cataract Center Optical Department where our Opticians will help you select a fashionable and well fitting frame with the appropriate type of lenses for your work, hobbies or daily activities.

Next, your “Ocular Motility” will be evaluated in order to understand how well the eye muscles function together and how effectively your eyes move into the different positions of gaze.  

By shining a light into your eyes, the reaction of your pupils to the light will be evaluated. By shinning the light into your eyes in different directions, the doctors can learn a great deal about how well your Optic Nerve is functioning.

You will then be asked to sit comfortably behind a specialized instrument called a Slit Lamp Biomicroscope. This instrument provides the eye doctor with both high magnification and special illumination. Using this instrument it is possible for your Ophthalmologist to examine the condition of your eyelids, eye lashes, eyelid margins and tear film. The Slit Lamp will also be used to carefully examine the sclera-or “white of your eye”-and the cornea, or clear dome shaped tissue in front of your pupil. By focusing the slit lamp through the pupil or the dark center of the iris-the colored part of the eye-your doctor will be able to examine the health of the crystalline lens, which is where cataracts form. 

In order to check for one of the signs of glaucoma, eye drops will be placed in your eyes so that the pressure, called Intraocular Pressure (IOP) can be measured while you are behind the Slit Lamp, or with a TonoPen, which is a handheld instrument.  This is an important diagnostic test for glaucoma.  

Once your Ophthalmologist has completed the examination of the “front of the eye”, it will be time to begin the examination of the health of the “back of the eye”. At this time, additional eye drops may be placed in your eyes in order to dilate or widen your pupils. After the dilation drops are placed in your eyes, it will usually take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes for the eye drops to fully dilate your pupil.  

Please be patient. You will be asked to relax in one of our comfortable waiting areas while the eye drops work, or if you prefer you may take a walk and browse through our optical shop while you wait. The thorough examination of the health of the retina and optic nerve through a dilated pupil is not uncomfortable. However, the fully widened pupil may make you somewhat sensitive to light and may also blur your vision, especially your near vision, for a few hours after your eye examination. If you have not had a dilated exam in the past, it is a good idea to have a driver on your exam day. It is important to bring a good pair of sunglasses with you in order to lessen your light sensitivity.

If you, a family member or friend, would like to schedule an eye exam, please call Alabama Eye & Cataract Center at 205-930-0930.