Table of Content
How much is an eye exam? Routine eye exams are an integral part of having healthy vision and they can help catch small problems before they escalate into big ones. If you're looking for affordable eye exam options in your area, you'll likely find varying information. As long as you have vision insurance, you can expect these exams to cost about $15 with a copay. However, your annual routine eye exam in Chicago can cost up to $100 if you don't have insurance coverage. Exam prices can vary based on the testing required, it's always a good idea to review your insurance coverage prior to your exam, to prevent any surprises while checking out.
According to the Mayo Clinic, an eye exam is “a series of tests to evaluate your vision and check for eye diseases”.
Making sure you get regular eye exams can help detect eye problems at the earliest stage possible, when they’re the easiest to treat.
When it comes to children and eye tests, there are some additional important factors to consider. Kids’ eye exams are absolutely critical for school performance, as experts estimate that 80% of all learning occurs visually.
Why Are Eye Exams Important?
Getting an annual eye exam might not be at the top of your list every year, but this is a great way to catch vision problems that can lead to other health issues.
Here are some reasons to seek comprehensive eye exams every year:
- Routine exams help to check your visual acuity by asking you to read letters on a chart that vary in size.
- Refractive vision tests can help you determine if you need glasses, contact lenses, or if you qualify for refractive surgery.
- The alignment of your eyes is checked to make sure you can properly track and focus.
- Both the inner structures and the surface of your eyes will be closely examined. Your doctor will look at the optic nerve and the retina; it is here where many systemic diseases can be detected including high blood pressure, macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetes, etc.
Contrary to popular belief, an eye exam is not the same as a simple vision test that your kids get at school or you get at the DMV to make sure your eyesight isn’t blurry.
Are all eye exams the same? No, certainly not. There are different types of eye exam tests, some more thorough than others. A refraction eye exam simply checks whether glasses, contact lenses, or refractive surgery may improve vision, but doesn’t check the health of the eye, like a comprehensive eye exam.
So, what is a comprehensive eye exam? It’s a thorough check of your vision and ocular health performed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. During an eye exam, your eye doctor will check a wide variety of aspects of your eye health and test for possible underlying diseases. The different parts of a comprehensive eye exam are enumerated in detail later on in this article.
In addition to a comprehensive eye exam, there are other types of exams you may need depending on your age, family history, and general eye health. For example, you may need to get a specific eye exam for contact lenses, or you may need to have your eyes tested for optic nerve damage if you suffer from a condition like glaucoma.
Basic Eye Exam
A basic eye exam may include a check of your vision, refraction, and a cursory look at the health of your eyes. It generally doesn’t include dilation of your pupils.
Comprehensive Eye Exam
A comprehensive eye exam includes the elements of a basic exam but is more thorough in checking the health of the eyes. This generally involves pupillary dilation, which is done using drops instilled into the eyes.
Contact Lens Exam
If you don't yet have a contact lens prescription but you're interested in getting one, you'll want to get a special exam to make sure that the lenses and the prescription are the right fit for you. During this routine eye exam, your local optometrist will measure the size and shape of your cornea and make sure you aren't suffering from dry eye symptoms. If your licensed eye doctor detects any vision problems, he or she may have you try a contact lens fitting.
Eye exam prices with insurance are generally affordable and the specific price depends on your provider. Keep in mind that most health insurance providers don't cover routine eye exams. There is vision insurance coverage that usually covers at least a portion of your exams. If you have a vision insurance plan, the average cost is between $10 — $40. Again, checking with your specific insurance provider, and reviewing your coverage is always a good idea prior to your eye exam.
If you don't have vision coverage, you have the option to visit vision centers at major retailers rather than seek a comprehensive exam from an independent eye doctor. When visiting a retailer, you can expect to pay $50 — $100, while visiting a private doctor could cost you $200+. Below is the national average for the cost of eye exams across the country.
The Center for Disease Control reports that 93 million American adults are considered to be at high risk for severe vision loss, yet only half of these people have seen an eye doctor in the past year. For adults ages 40 and older, the estimated economic impact of major vision problems is north of $145 billion. But how much is an eye test that focuses on contacts? What about LASIK? We've outlined additional costs for other standard services, but these vary based on the procedure type and the location.
You might be wondering how much a vision exam costs, but in reality, there are many considerations that influence the price. Here are some factors that can impact the cost of your vision care.
New Patient or Returning Patient?
Did you know that your patient history and whether or not you're an established patient can determine the price that you pay? On average, new patients can expect to pay $200 without insurance while established patients can expect to pay around $100-$150 without insurance.
Patients typically pay less for exams in the middle and southern regions compared to other areas of the country. For example, comprehensive exams in the Southwest, Southeast, and Midwest cost an average of $90 or less but cost $112 in the Northeast. If you live in an area with a lower cost of living, the cost of a routine eye exam will typically be lower.
The type of clinic that you choose will also influence the price. At retail or vision centers, you can expect to pay around $100 but visiting a private office could cost you up to $250 depending on your specific location.
As many individuals have vision issues and eye-related diseases, it's important to note that you can always find ways to find low-cost eye exams even if you don't have insurance. This is especially true for low-income families and seniors.
There is a non-profit called New Eyes that buys new prescription eyeglasses for both children and adults who cannot afford to do so for themselves. In order to qualify, you'll have to apply. It's possible for a social security agency to apply on behalf of a client at an approved retail center. Applicants that are approved need to have an eyeglasses prescription that was written in the past 24 months before being approved. In addition, New Eyes provides patients with a pair of single or lined bifocal glasses. The organization states that they are unable to provide upgrades such as transition lenses or tinted lenses.
Sight for Students
Vision Service Plan (VSP) offers Sight for Students certificates that provide free eye exams for children up to 19 years of age. To be eligible, the family of the child must be at or below 200 percent of the federal policy level, have no vision care coverage via government programs or private insurance, and have not received care from VSP in the past 12 months.
VSP also has an Eyes of Hope Program that, depending on the adult, provides these services for adults. For example, they provide those who have endured a disaster, with gift cards to help improve their eye care or provide replacement glasses in the case that vision insurance plans aren't possible. Examples of a disaster include hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, and floods.
EyeCare has gathered over 5,500 volunteer ophthalmologists and has helped over 2 million patients gain access to quality care at minimal or no cost. They offer a Senior Program for adults 65+ with a medical eye exam and an additional year of follow-up care for refractive errors or other issues caught during the exam. They also have a Glaucoma Program that offers glaucoma-specific eye exams for those without insurance.
National institutes such as the American Optometric Association (AOA) recommend that a baby gets his or her first eye exam around 6 months old. This public health program by Optometry Care helps families receive the care that they need no matter their income or vision correction needs.
This is a state and federal-funded health insurance program that helps low-income individuals. In order to qualify for Medicaid, you'll need to check into the requirements of your specific state. Even if you don't think that you could qualify, it's worth checking into. It covers a variety of preventative services such as screening and treatments and vision care issues. Eligible children may also receive dental care in addition to routine eye exams.
When issues such as eye strain are caught early, they are less likely to develop into something more serious.
Now that you recognize how important it is, you may wonder when is the right time to have an eye exam. The National Eye Institutes' recommended frequency of eye exams differs depending on age, risk factors, and if you’re already wearing corrective lenses, but the general rule is that an adult should have a comprehensive eye exam once every one or two years.
Children 3 Years and Younger
Babies should have their eyes examined between 6 and 12 months of age. A pediatric eye exam can help to uncover developmental issues early on. When issues such as eye strain are caught early, they are less likely to develop into something more serious and complex.
School-Age Children and Adolescents
Children should have another eye exam between the ages of 3 and 5, which can help uncover problems with vision and eye alignment like myopia. Another eye exam should take place before they start first grade.
This is a crucial time for learning, and visual deficits can impair a child’s ability to thrive in school. After that, it’s recommended to have their eyes checked every year until they’re 18, provided there aren’t any risk factors or corrective lenses involved.
For most adults up to the age of 65, it is recommended you have an eye exam every two years unless there are certain risk factors that impact overall health like a family history of glaucoma or macular degeneration. In those instances, it’s best to ask your eye care professional how frequently you should get an exam. Typically, they will recommend testing at least yearly. Risk factors for more frequent eye examinations include:
- A personal or family history of eye disease.
- Being of a certain racial and ethnic background.
- Systemic health conditions with potential ocular effects.
- Occupations that are visually demanding or are hazardous to the eyes.
- Taking certain drugs that have ocular side effects.
- Having functional vision in only one eye.
- Being a contact lens wearer.
- History of previous eye surgery or injury.
- Having high or progressive refractive error.
- Having other eye-related health concerns or conditions.
After you turn 65, you should be seeing an eye doctor at least once a year to increase the probability of early detection of glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, and other potential issues.
If you’re worried about what happens at an eye exam, don’t be. Technology is Changing!
It's incredible to see how quickly sight-saving technology is evolving. Only a few years ago someone diagnosed with macular degeneration completely lost their vision, but now, there are sight-saving medications and several treatment options available. Even if you've previously been told that your condition isn't treatable, it's worth it to look into current treatment options as you may now qualify. More patients are also taking advantage of online eye exams as well.
We all have our to-do lists, and “get eye exam” may or may not be on yours; however, there are certain signs that warrant getting your eyes examined sooner than later.
1. You Can’t Remember When You Had Your Last Eye Exam
As you saw in the recommendations above, most age groups should be getting their eyes examined at least every few years. If you can’t even remember your last eye exam, or worse, you don’t know if you’ve ever had one, it’s time to make an appointment with the eye doctor.
2. You Have a High Risk for Eye Diseases
Maybe you have diabetes, or perhaps your sister has glaucoma. A personal or familial history of eye disease warrants having your eyes examined more often. Certain racial or ethnic backgrounds can also predispose you to eye disease. If you’re African American or Latinx, you may want to see an eye doctor more often.
Wearing contact lenses is another reason to get your eyes examined more often. Previous eye surgery or injury may require more frequent monitoring, as does taking certain medications.
3. Your Vision Is Getting Worse
Sometimes, your body tells you something that you can’t ignore. If your eyesight seems to be getting worse, that’s a sure sign you should see an eye care professional.
4. You Have Allergies
Red, itchy, watery eyes may be a sign of ocular allergies. Sometimes, eye allergies manifest without all the other traditional signs, like sneezing and a runny nose. Every individual has their own triggers, which could include anything from pollen to mold to perfume. Regardless, your optometrist or ophthalmologist can prescribe appropriate remedies to alleviate your symptoms.
5. You’re Having Other Eye Problems
Blurry vision isn’t the only sign you should see an eye doctor. Other visual symptoms such as double vision, floaters, or flashes should also prompt you to make an appointment. Similarly, if you have any eye discharge, redness, or pain, you should have your eyes examined.
Healthy eyes and vision are critical to your quality of life. Luckily, eye exams are quick, easy, and painless. So, if you’re overdue, don’t hesitate to book your next appointment. The team of highly-rated doctors at Kraff Eye Institute can conduct your comprehensive eye exam and consult with you if any additional procedures are deemed necessary. To schedule an appointment, call (312) 467-7615 or fill out our consultation form. Depending on the age of your child, our practice may need to refer you to a pediatric ophthalmologist. Please contact us to discuss that with one of our patient care coordinators.
Eye Exam Frequently Asked Questions
Are Online Tests and Telehealth Services Effective for Eye Exams?
Yes! As technology continues to evolve, it's important to take advantage of all of your options. If you're interested in exploring digital services, you'll find many different options at your fingertips. If needed, your doctor will recommend that you schedule an in-person appointment, which will involve a more thorough examination.
What Diseases Can Be Detected in an Eye Exam?
An eye exam can detect a multitude of diseases, both in the eyes and elsewhere in the body. Some common eye diseases that eye care professionals look for include cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. Your eye doctor may also identify signs of systemic diseases, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, among many others.
How Long Does an Eye Exam Take?
Plan to be at your doctor’s office for at least an hour for a comprehensive eye exam. There are many steps to the examination, and each of these takes time. You may have some downtime during part of your visit, as the doctor awaits the dilation drops to take into effect. If you are found to need supplementary testing, such as a visual field, for example, additional time may be required. Child exams may require longer appointments. Please discuss that with one of our patient care coordinators.