A traditional eye test doesn’t tell you how you see

Wednesday October 24th, 2018

A traditional optician’s eye test often fails to measure many areas of vision that have a huge impact on how you perceive what you see. The scope of eye tests needs to be expanded so people can know how they truly see.


You probably don’t know how you see. You read that right. If you’d imagined that the visual acuity measurements done in a traditional eye test tell you whether your vision is good, bad or something in between, you’re wrong.


However, you’re not alone. I’ve noticed a common misconception that good vision means the same thing as good visual acuity. However, it doesn’t. Even if an optician says a customer’s visual acuity is perfect, there can still be serious vision deficiencies.


Good vision is much more than visual acuity. For people to function safely at work, play and on the road, it’s important for them to be familiar with their functional vision. That means that as well as knowing their own visual acuity, they must also know how wide, clear and fast their vision is. All four of these factors have a large impact on how a person perceives his or her environment and is able to function in it.


So what does functional vision mean in practice, and why is it important to know what kind of functional vision you have? Here’s a brief explanation.


If, for example, you have poor clarity of vision – otherwise known as contrast vision – you’re going to have difficulty making out lights, shades and hues. Or, if your visual field is narrower than usual, you might not see things happening in the left of it – which can endanger you and many other people.


The most important reason for knowing your own functional vision is to make it possible to ease everyday life and to avoid risky situations, such as on the road.


Sometimes deficiencies in functional vision can be corrected with glasses, and sometimes with additional lighting or training the eyes’ reaction speed. Dryness of the eyes can also affect contrast vision, in which case eye drops can be a simple solution to the problem.


Sometimes, deficiencies in vision require a change in habits. If, for example, you have slower vision speed – that is reaction time – than usual, you should leave a considerably longer braking distance between you and the car in front while driving.


Vision is one of our most important senses. Everyone should be given the possibility to know how he or she sees in reality – and everyone has the right to receive help with vision problems.


An optician should be able to tell a customer about his or her vision, both in depth and holistically. A person might suffer from functional vision problems for years, even though help is readily available. Before treating problems, however, they must first be detected.


That is the task of opticians. So I’m throwing a challenge out there: optometry professionals, serve your customers the best you can. This means you must widen the scope of traditional eye tests. There are already signs of this: pioneers in the field are already offering exams of functional vision.


My second challenge is for you: the next time you go for an eye test, ask your optician to tell you how you really see.


Annika Laaksonen, Product Manager Ocusweep