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Focusing on Retinoscopy

During some eye exams, your eye doctor might direct a beam of light into your eye, and hold various lenses in front of it. But why? Such as test is used to help determine the refractive error of your eye, and it’s called retinoscopy. By examining the way light reflects off your retina, your optometrist can assess whether you are nearsighted, farsighted or have astigmatism, and can also get a pretty good reading on the prescription you would need to correct your vision.

Basically, what we are looking for during the retinoscopy exam is checking how accurately your eye can focus. When light shines into your eye using a retinoscope, a reddish light reflects off your retina, through your pupil. We call this the red reflex. We use the light to determine your focal length, or in simpler words, to measure the precise angle of refraction of light off your retina which tells us how well your eye is able to focus. If it becomes obvious that you can’t focus correctly, we hold up different lenses with varying prescriptions in front of the eye to determine which one will correct the refractive error. And that is exactly how we find out the prescription your glasses or contact lenses need to be.

The optometrist will perform your exam in a dark room. To make your eyes easier to examine, you’ll generally be asked to look at something behind the doctor. The exam doesn’t include eye charts, which means that a retinoscopy exam is also a really useful tool to determine the prescriptions of those who may struggle with speech, like young children and the elderly.

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