What is A Refraction Eye Exam | The Vision Gallery Edmonton

EYE HEALTH 101: What is a Refraction Eye Exam?

Woman doing eye test with optometrist in medical officeProper eye and vision health can only be maintained if you and your family visit the optometrist for regular examinations. An eye exam has many parts– each helping to determine or narrow down onsets and causes of vision problems. One such part is a refraction test. It can seem a little complex at first glance, but a refraction test is a reliable, effective and safe way to identify eye health issues.


Also known as a vision test, a refraction test is one of the most commonly depicted steps in a full eye exam. Once seated comfortably, you will be asked to look through a device that resembles space-age binoculars. This equipment is called a phoroptor or refractor— it contains an array of different lenses that are rotated in front of one eye at a time. Most often a letter chart is used to determine each eye’s ability to see detail at a distance.

WHAT IS 20/20?

The term “20/20” is actually a value used by medical professionals to indicate ideal or optimal vision. Measuring visual acuity means using 20/20 as a baseline to compare other qualities of eyesight. The numbers in the term refer to distance (feet) and you may see it indicate elsewhere as 6/6 vision (metres). In other words– if you have 20/40 vision, you have to be 50% closer than someone with 20/20 vision to see the same level of detail.


If one or both of your eyes see at less than 20/20 vision, you likely have refractive errors. Essentially, light bends as it enters the eye in such a way that it creates a clear picture for us to see on the optic nerve. If you are nearsighted or farsighted, a minuscule change in shape causes the light to bend at an imperfect angle– creating blurriness at different distances. Glasses, contact lenses and laser surgery are universal ways of correcting these refractive errors.


As a basic part of an eye exam, everyone should have regular refraction tests. Healthy adults with no vision problems or pain should be tested every one to two years. Children, seniors and diabetes sufferers do best when tested yearly. Beyond slight changes in vision, refraction tests can help diagnose other serious problems such as astigmatism, ulcers or infection and macular degeneration– just to name a few!

If you are concerned about your vision or long-term eye health, contact or visit the Vision Gallery today! Our friendly staff is waiting to book your appointment and we are happy to answer any questions, concerns or worries. You have many years of healthy vision ahead of you and we will keep you seeing crystal clear.


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