A pamphlet about diabetes, a syringe with insulin, and a stethoscope on the table.

Your vision is an important part of your day-to-day life, so getting your vision checked is never a bad idea. Regular eye exams can provide numerous benefits and allow your optometrist to assist with your vision problems before they become detrimental to your sight.

A comprehensive eye exam gives your doctor the opportunity to detect early symptoms of potential diseases and health problems. Diabetes, thyroid issues, cataracts, and even brain tumours can be detected in a comprehensive eye exam. When it comes to your health, prevention and early detection are key. Even if you are healthy, you can benefit from having your eyes checked to detect potential problems down the line. 

What’s the Difference Between Eye Exams & Vision Tests?

Vision tests and eye exams are designed with different purposes in mind. 

Vision Tests

Vision tests are intended solely to determine the clarity of your vision, which allows your optometrist to determine your prescription. This is normally performed using automated equipment that determines the specific lens you require.

A standard vision test is not designed to find problems or diseases in your eye; they only focus on your vision itself.

Eye Exams

Eye exams are significantly more in-depth, which means they take slightly longer. Your doctor will spend this time focusing on the internal and external health of your eyes. 

They will focus on the tissue structure of your eye, looking specifically for problems prominent in the area using a powerful microscope. Since the human eye is so complex, this can take some time (normally between 15 minutes and 1 hour). 

By performing this eye exam, the doctor can determine your level of eye health. They will be able to diagnose potential problems and provide assistance and advice for treating them, along with checking your prescription and keeping it up-to-date. 

A female ophthalmologist is holding a chart with a close-up cross-section image of an eye explaining how glaucoma affects the eye of her patient.

What Do Optometrists Look for in an Eye Exam?

The human eye is a complicated organ. During a comprehensive eye exam, your doctor will look for many different signs of disease. An eye doctor will often use eye drops to dilate your pupil. This gives a better view of the inside and back of the eye and allows them to determine potential issues.

Some of the most common issues an optometrist will look for include diabetes, glaucoma, and cataracts, among others.  


Diabetes is one of the leading causes of preventable blindness in North America for those over 30. If diabetes goes untreated or undiagnosed, it can damage the blood vessels at the back of the eyes, leading to blurry vision. 

If a patient has already been diagnosed with diabetes, this exam allows the doctor to verify how healthy the blood vessels are in the eye. If you have diabetes you should have an eye exam performed at least once a year to detect and prevent serious complications. 


Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that are normally caused by high levels of pressure in the eye. It’s a progressive disease, meaning it can get worse over time. If left untreated or undiagnosed, glaucoma can lead to damage of the optic nerve itself. 

If symptoms develop quickly or are unnoticed, glaucoma can lead to serious problems with your vision, including a loss of peripheral vision, blind spots, or even total vision loss. Fortunately, glaucoma symptoms are often slow to develop, so if detected early the effects it has on your eyes can be minimalized. 


Tumours are normally associated with different kinds of cancer. 

Some of the symptoms of a tumour include:

  • Severely worsening vision
  • Headaches
  • Blind spots
  • Uncontrollable eye movements
  • Bulges developing in the eye
  • Temporary vision loss

It’s important to note that these symptoms can be caused by many different things. However, if any of these symptoms develop suddenly, it’s best to seek medical attention. If your optometrist suspects a tumour is causing your vision issues, they can offer a referral and advice for next steps.


Cataracts are aclouding of the natural crystalline lens that is inside the eye. This can cause blurry vision, difficulty driving at night, or difficulty reading in low light conditions. 

Cataracts can be easily solved for many with cataract surgery. They are a normal occurrence associated with ageing—so much so that cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed surgeries in Canada.

Thyroid Disease

The thyroid regulates and produces hormones that control your metabolism. During an eye exam, your optometrist may check for protruding eyeballs and receding eyelids—both symptoms of thyroid disease. This is caused when the thyroid produces too much or too little of the necessary hormones.

High Blood Pressure 

Your doctor can determine whether you have high blood pressure by examining the blood vessels at the back of the eye. If they are bent, kinked, or misshapen in any way, the doctor can determine whether you have high blood pressure or not.

High blood pressure is often a symptom of other problems, such as glaucoma or diabetes.

High Cholesterol

High cholesterol is determined by a coloured ring that surrounds your cornea, often blue or yellow. High cholesterol is often associated with a stroke, and early detection is extremely important.

Get Your Eyes Checked 

Your vision is an important part of how you operate in and interact with the world around you. There are many benefits to having your eyes regularly checked, but keeping your eyes and overall health in check is one of the greatest benefits. Regular eye exams performed by a knowledgeable and experienced team can support your health and preserve your vision for years to come. Be proactive about your health by booking an exam with the River City Eye Care team in Edmonton today!