Navigate Up

Men's Center - A-Z Index

#
Q
Y
Z

Print This Page

Refraction test

The refraction test is an eye exam that measures a person's prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses.

Alternative Names

Eye test - refraction; Vision test - refraction; Refraction

How the test is performed

This test is performed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. Both of these professionals are often called "eye doctor."

You sit in a chair that has a special device (called a phoroptor or refractor) attached to it. You look through the device and focus on an eye chart 20 feet away. The device contains lenses of different strengths that can be moved into your view. The test is performed one eye at a time.

The eye doctor performing the test will ask if the chart appears more or less clear when different lenses are in place.

How to prepare for the test

If you wear contact lenses, ask the doctor if you need to remove them and for how long before the test .

How the test will feel

There is no discomfort.

Why the test is performed

This test can be done as part of a routine eye exam. The purpose is to determine whether you have a refractive error (a need for glasses or contact lenses).

For people over age 40 who have normal distance vision but difficulty with near vision, a refraction test can determine the right power of reading glasses.

Normal Values

If your uncorrected vision (without glasses or contact lenses) is normal, then the refractive error is zero (plano) and your vision should be 20/20.

A value of 20/20 is normal vision. This means you can read 3/8-inch letters at 20 feet. A small type size is also used to determine normal near vision.

What abnormal results mean

You have a refractive error if you need a combination of lenses to see 20/20. Glasses or contact lenses should give you good vision. If you have a refractive error, you have a "prescription." Your prescription is a series of numbers that describe the powers of the lenses needed to make you see clearly.

If your final vision is less than 20/20, even with lenses, then there is probably another, non-optical problem with your eye.

The vision level you achieve during the refraction test is called the best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA).

Abnormal results may be due to:

Other conditions under which the test may be performed:

What the risks are

There are no risks.

Special considerations

You should have a complete eye examination every 3 to 5 years if you have no problems. If your vision becomes blurry, worsens, or if there are other noticeable changes, schedule an eye examination immediately.

After age 40 (or for people with a family history of glaucoma ), eye examinations should be scheduled at least once a year to test for glaucoma. Anyone with diabetes should also have an eye exam at least once a year.

People with a refractive error should have an eye examination every 1 to 2 years, or whenever their vision changes.

References

American Academy of Ophthalmology Preferred Practice Patterns Committee. Preferred Practice Pattern Guidelines. Comprehensive Adult Medical Eye Evaluation. Available at http://one.aao.org/CE/PracticeGuidelines/PPP_Content.aspx?cid=64e9df91-dd10-4317-8142-6a87eee7f517. Accessed February 26, 2013.

Scott CA. Testing of refraction. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2008:chap 2.8.

Updated: 2/7/2013

Franklin W. Lusby, MD, Ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, California. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com