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Retinoscopy: How Does it Work?

On occasion, particularly when performing an eye exam on a small child the optometrist will direct a light in the eye. So what does this do? Such as test is used to help determine the refractive error of your eye, and it's known as a retinoscopy exam. Whether you're near or farsighted, or you have astigmatism, examining the way light reflects off your retina is one way your optometrist is able to determine if you need vision correction.

How well your eyes are able to focus during the retinoscopy exam is really what we're looking for. We do this looking for what's known as your red reflex. The retinoscope sends a beam of light into your eye, and a reddish light reflects through your pupil and off your retina. The degree at which the light reflects off your retina, also called your focal length, is precisely what lets us know how well your eye can focus. And if we notice that you can't focus properly, we hold several prescription lenses in front of your eye to determine which one rectifies the error.

The retinoscopy exam is usually performed in a darkened room. The patient will usually be told to look at something ahead, just behind the doctor. This makes eyes easier to examine. The exam doesn't include charts to be read, which means that a retinoscopy exam is also a really good way to accurately determine the prescriptions of the speech-impaired, or young children.

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