Comprehensive Eye Examinations

A comprehensive eye exam performed by a Doctor of Optometry is an important part of preventative health care. These examinations are recommended for all ages, regardless of vision concerns. Comprehensive eye exams can detect eye diseases, disorders, as well as other systemic health problems.

Comprehensive eye exams look at the entire eye and visual system, and is often compared to that of a “physical checkup” at a doctors office. It is important to follow the recommended schedule for these examinations.

0 - 12 Months (Newborn)

First comprehensive eye examinations are recommended at 6 months of age, where the optometrist is evaluating your baby for any signs of ocular health issues (like retinoblastoma, congenital cataracts, blocked tear ducts), checking for binocular vision (eye turns), and are looking for refractive error that is outside of normal ranges for their age (farsightedness, astigmatism, or nearsightedness). We have many ways to check the health and vision of a 6 month old, even though they cannot talk! Learn more about pediatric exams here.

1 - 18 Years (Child-Teen)

Comprehensive eye examinations are covered by Alberta Health care yearly for patients between the ages of 0 and 18. We recommend that all children have their eyes examined yearly, even if they do not report any vision or eye health concerns.

Many times parents are surprised when their child would benefit from corrective prescription glasses, because they had never heard of any vision concerns from their child.

Remember, children usually don’t know what “NORMAL VISION” is and cannot always verbalize issues they may be having.

Learning is 80% visual, so it is important for your child to have a comfortable, healthy, and efficient visual system for all aspects of development and learning.  Learn more about pediatric exams here.

19 - 64 Years (Adult)

Comprehensive eye examinations are recommended every 1-2 years for healthy patients between the ages of 19 and 64. These eye examinations are not covered through Alberta Health Care, but usually are covered (at least in portion) by private health insurances *link to insurance page* like Alberta Blue Cross, Great West Life, Manulife, Sunlife, or Greenshield (if one has this coverage).

65 + Years (Senior)

Comprehensive eye examinations are covered by Alberta Health Care yearly for patients 65 years of age and over. As ocular health conditions increase in prevalence the older we get, it is critical for this population to have annual eye examinations to assess for potential changes.

Many ocular health conditions have NO SYMPTOMS in the early stages, and if they are not detected and treated early on, can have visually devastating results.

What you can expect with a Comprehensive Eye Examination (but is variable depending on age):
Pre-testing (performed by an optometric assistant):
Auto refraction

An estimation of the prescription of your eye which involves you looking in a machine with a target picture that comes in and out of focus.

Auto keratometry

An estimation of the curvature of your eye which helps the doctor to understand the shape of your eye to guide contact lens fittings.


A measurement of the thickness of the front of your eye (the cornea) which helps the doctor to understand the integrity of your eye tissue and determine your eligibility for refractive surgery.


This is the “puff of air” test that measures the intraocular pressure of your eye, which helps the doctor assess for the risk for glaucoma. We usually do not perform this on children under the age of 12.

Visual Field Screening

This screens for peripheral vision defects by having you click on a trigger button when you see the motion / vibration of a grating shape on the screen.

Retinal Photography

A picture of the back of your eye (the retina) will be taken as documentation for the health status of the back of your eye. They are used to watch for change over time and to document certain ocular health conditions.

Stereopsis (3D vision)

This is a test of your depth perception, which requires you to choose the pictures or buttons that are “popping out of the book”.

Colour Vision

using various coloured numbers, this test helps to identify any colour vision deficiencies (like red/green or blue/yellow or complete colour deficiencies).

Examination (performed by a Doctor of Optometry):
Visual Acuity

This is where the doctor uses letters, numbers, or pictures on the eye chart to determine your level of visual acuity or “eye sight”. This number is usually presented in 20/20 format (using feet in the USA) or 6/6 (meters in Canada). Good eyesight involves a visual acuity of 20/20 or better. The HIGHER the number on the bottom (ex: 20/100), the worse the eye sight is.

Eye Posture

This is where the doctor checks to see how your eyes are aligned at both distance and up close (near). Some people have eyes that are not straight, and may demonstrate strabismus (an eye turns either out or in) or a phoria (an eye has a tendency to want to sit in the outward, inward, or vertical position).

Muscle Balance

This is where the doctor checks to make sure your eyes are able to move into all periods of gaze (up, down, left, right) without restrictions, pain, or overshoots.


This is where the doctor uses the “phoropter” (the glasses machine) to check the prescription of your eyes. The doctor may use an instrument called a retinoscope to shine a light in your eye to help estimate the prescription of your eyes. They may also ask you to subjectively help them find the best prescription for you, by asking you which option of lenses is clearer. Keep in mind, it is always ok to say they look the same!! And the options are never a trick, and your doctor does not know the correct answer, it is all about how YOUR eyes see!


The doctor will check the response of your pupils to light to make sure there are no neurological concerns.

Ocular Health

The doctor will use a slit lamp (similar to a microscope) to look at the health of your eyes, starting at the front, and moving inside, and to the back of the eyes. This instrument uses a bright light to examine the health of the structures of the eye, the light is NOT damaging to the eye, but can seem quite bright. A magnification lens is also used to help examine the structures of the back of the eye.


  • A summary of the ocular and visual conditions that were found during your eye examination will be presented to you.
  • Treatments, recommendations, referrals, and advice will be provided (if needed).
  • And there is always time for questions and concerns!