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What is Retinoscopy?

During some eye exams, you may have had a doctor tell you to peer straight in front of you while shining a strong light into your eye. But 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. It sounds fascinating, but by looking at the way light reflects off your retina, the eye care professional can determine if you are nearsighted, farsighted or have astigmatism. This is how they can also get a pretty good reading on the prescription you would need to correct your vision.

The most important thing an eye doctor is checking for during this exam is how well your eyes can focus on the light. We do this looking for what's known as the red reflex. The retinoscope aims a beam of light into your eye, and a reddish light reflects through your pupil and off your retina. The angle 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 aren't focusing correctly, we hold different lenses with varying prescriptions in front of your eye to see which one rectifies the error. And that is exactly how we calculate the prescription your glasses or contact lenses need to be.

All this happens in a dark room. To make your eyes easier to examine, you'll usually be asked to keep your eyes fixed on an object behind the doctor. Because a retinoscopy exam doesn't require you to read eye charts, it's also a particularly useful way to determine an accurate prescription for kids who might struggle with speech, or others who might be speech-impaired.

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