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Maintaining good eye health is important, but we often take our eyes for granted. A number of eye conditions have no obvious symptoms until the advanced stages. In fact, around 90% of all vision loss is actually preventable or treatable.1 From the age of 40, it is normal to experience changes in your vision. Your risk of developing certain eye conditions also starts to increase. Have regular eye tests with your optometrist to ensure any issues are detected and treated as early as possible.

General (or comprehensive) ophthalmologists treat a wide variety of eye conditions and also perform cataract surgery. Vision Eye Institute doctors have completed extensive specialist training in order to become a general ophthalmologist. In addition, many have undertaken further training and extra qualifications in specific diseases or conditions affecting the eye – this is called subspecialisation. In certain situations, more specialised care or surgery is required, in which case a general ophthalmologist may refer you to a subspecialist colleague.

How often should I have my eyes checked?

You should generally have your eyes checked at least once every 2 years by an optometrist (and/or ophthalmologist in certain situations). A routine eye check may lead to the early diagnosis and treatment of a condition – hopefully, before any irreversible vision loss has occurred.

People who wear contact lenses, have health conditions (e.g. diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis) or have a family history of eye disorders may require more frequent eye checks.

What should I eat to maintain good eye health?

Your diet will contribute to good eye health.

Foods such as oily fish (omega 3 oils), leafy greens (lutein and zeaxanthin), brightly coloured vegetables and fruits (vitamins C and A), and nuts and seeds (vitamin E) are all great for your eyes, as well as the rest of your body. You can decrease your chance of developing vision-threatening diseases, such as macular degeneration, by eating these foods as part of a healthy diet.

What does an ophthalmologist do?

Ophthalmologists are also known as eye specialists, eye surgeons and eye doctors. Ophthalmologists can diagnose and treat eye conditions, perform eye surgery, and prescribe medications and glasses.

A general practitioner or optometrist must refer you to see an ophthalmologist.

What does an optometrist do?

Optometrists can prescribe glasses and contact lenses and, in some cases, a limited range of medications. They can diagnose and monitor eye disease and also provide referrals directly to ophthalmologists.

Eye examinations by an optometrist attract a Medicare rebate and are often bulk-billed.

What does an orthoptist do?

Orthoptists can prescribe glasses and contact lenses. They work with ophthalmologists in hospitals and private practice, in research and in low-vision agencies to provide education and home support.

What does an optical dispenser do?

Optical dispensers make and dispense glasses and contact lenses, based on prescriptions written by ophthalmologists, optometrists and orthoptists.


For a full reference list, visit the general eye health FAQ page.

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Comprehensive eye examination

Your ophthalmologist will take a detailed history, including family history of conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease. You will be asked about any vision problems you are currently experiencing, as well as any that you have had previously. If you use prescription glasses or contact lenses, make sure you take these to your appointment.

The comprehensive eye examination includes tests to determine the health, function and appearance of different parts of the eye.

These may include:

  • Visual acuity test to check how well you can see from a set distance using a Snellen chart. This chart contains rows of letters, which decrease in size from the top line to the bottom line.
  • Eye muscle test to check the function of the muscles responsible for moving the eye. Your ophthalmologist will hold up and move a pen or object and ask you to follow it with your eyes without moving your neck.
  • Refraction test to determine if your vision is normal or if you need corrective lenses. Your ophthalmologist may use a digital refractor or retinoscope to direct a beam of light into your eye and assess how effectively it can focus light. If you have a refractive error, fine adjustments for prescription lenses are made by getting you to look through a phoropter, a mask-like device with multiple lenses which are quickly switched to find out which ones give you the sharpest vision.
  • Visual field test to assess your peripheral (side) vision. You may be asked to look into a special instrument and press a button when you see a flashing light. Alternatively, you may be asked to keep your head still, cover one eye and report at what stage you see the ophthalmologist’s moving hand.
  • Colour-vision test using multi-coloured dot patterns. Certain colour deficiency will prevent you seeing particular patterns.
  • Slit-lamp examination allows your ophthalmologist to examine the cornea, lens, iris and anterior chamber of the eye. You are asked to sit and rest your chin and forehead on a device that combines a microscope with bright light. Fluorescent eye drops may be used to look for cuts, foreign objects or infections of the cornea.
  • Retinal examination to check for diseases of the retina and optic nerve at the back of your eye. After applying eye drops to dilate the pupil, your ophthalmologist uses an ophthalmoscope, slit lamp or bright light mounted on their head to examine each eye. These eye drops cause blurred vision and sensitivity to light for a few hours after the test.
  • Tonometry to measure the internal eye pressure, using a device called a tonometer. Eye drops are often used to numb the eye first.
  • Pachymetry uses ultrasound waves to measure the thickness of the cornea and look for signs of increased intraocular pressure. Eye drops are used to numb the eye first.
  • Neurological exam to check the function of your cranial nerves. This may be required in some situations.

The results of most tests are available straight away, but some may take a few days.

Note: If you have had pupil-dilating drops during the examination, you will have blurry vision and sensitivity to glare and bright light for approximately 4 to 6 hours. You will not be able to drive home and should make other arrangements.


If you have a refractive error where the shape of your eyeball prevents light focusing properly (resulting in blurred or distorted vision), your ophthalmologist will prescribe corrective glasses.

If an eye disease is detected or suspected, you may need to have further diagnostic tests before a treatment plan can be recommended. In certain situations, a general ophthalmologist may also refer you to another ophthalmologist who has subspecialised in a particular part of the eye (e.g. a corneal or retinal specialist).


  1. Good Vision for Life. 90% of vision loss can be prevented or treated with early detection [Internet]. Australia: Optometry Australia; [date unknown] [cited 2021 Jan 28]. Available from: https://goodvisionforlife.com.au/better-vision/↩︎

The information on this page is general in nature. All medical and surgical procedures have potential benefits and risks. Consult your ophthalmologist for specific medical advice.

Date last reviewed: 2023-05-26 | Date for next review: 2025-05-26

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