Eye exams are generally an easy, painless experience. Perhaps the most painful part is the embarrassment you might feel when you can’t read the second line of letters on the vision chart.
Puff of Air
However, one part of the exam that many seem to dread is that irritating “puff of air” to your eye. If you’ve ever had a comprehensive eye exam before then you have most likely experienced this test. The first time may not have been so bad. You were naïve… unsuspecting… trusting, but the next times… You sit your chin down and your optometrist tells you to “concentrate on the image you see” but the whole time all you can do is flinch every second as you wait for that inevitable puff of air.
Let’s be honest – that puff of air is absolutely painless. It is truly the anticipation that gets to most people and makes it declared as one of the “worst” parts of an eye exam.
So why is your optometrist putting you through this dreaded torture?
The “puffer test” (a non-contact tonometry, if you want to get technical) is a very important test for glaucoma. The puff of air that bounces back off your eye tests your eye’s resistance and uses that reading to calculate your intraocular pressure (IOP). In lament’s terms, intraocular pressure is the fluid pressure inside your eye. If you have high eye pressure, then you may be at risk for or already have glaucoma.
Glaucoma is a condition that causes damage to your optic nerve; it generally has few symptoms, which means having your eyes checked is imperative. If left untreated, glaucoma can cause peripheral vision loss which may then lead to complete blindness.
The best way to lower your risk of developing glaucoma is to have your eyes regularly checked. And the standard testing for this just happens to be that annoying little blast of air into your eye. It may take your optometrist a few tries before he or she can complete the test between your flinching and twitching, but trust that they will prevail (!) and make you as comfortable as possible in the process.