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What is an Eye Exam?
With a variety of instruments and lights, an eye exam evaluates your vision and checks your eyes for different diseases. Even if you have good vision and don’t think you need any eyewear, eye exams are important because they can help detect health problems. This includes diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, lupus, and various eye diseases such as glaucoma and macular degeneration.
A comprehensive eye exam can take anywhere between 30 minutes and an hour. It involves a series of tests that each examine different aspects of your vision and eye health:
- Visual Acuity. This is a test to measure the sharpness of your vision. Patients are tasked with reading lines of letters (that decrease in size) aloud on a chart that’s projected onto the wall.
- Visual Field. This is a test to check for blind spots in a patient’s peripheral vision.
- Pupillary Reactions. This test observes a patient’s pupils to see how they react to light and close objects.
- Cover Test. This test checks how a patient’s eyes work together by covering and uncovering each eye of a patient who is focusing on a small object some distance away. An eye misalignment may be detected during a cover test.
- Extraocular Muscle Function. In this test, a patient is tasked with following a target moving in different directions of their eyes. This test checks to see if you have normal eye movements.
- Retinoscopy. This light test checks which lenses are appropriate for a patient who needs eyeglasses or contact lenses. The technician will shine a light in their eyes while they look at a target and observe the ways that the light reflects from their eyes.
Most optometrists and ophthalmologists recommend that you get a complete eye exam about once every two to three years. You may visit the eye doctor more often if you have particularly poor or worsening vision or an eye disease. Other factors such as your age, medical history, and whether or not you currently wear glasses or contacts may also influence how often you have your eyes examined.
How Much Does an Eye Exam Cost?
Eye exams vary in cost depending on where you get yours done. You may get your eye exam done at a retail vision provider for under $100, but independent eye doctors may charge you more.
If you have vision insurance, your vision care plan may cover some or all costs of your eye exam.
Eye Exam Cost at Costco
An eye exam without insurance at Costo may vary depending on the location, but it’s still considered low-cost compared to the price that private eye doctors may charge. But you can usually get an eye exam for around $70.
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Costco also accepts most vision insurance coverage plans, which can help to cut the cost down even further. However, this can vary, because Costco optometry offices are all independent. Some Costco offices don’t take insurance at all.
Eye Exam Cost at Target
The cost of an eye exam without insurance at Target starts around $70. Target accepts many vision insurance plans that would ultimately make the price even cheaper.
Walmart Vision Center Eye Exam Cost
The cost of an eye exam without insurance at Walmart starts at $75. Walmart accepts most major insurance providers for eye exams and in-store purchases. Vision insurance can bring down the cost of your eye exam.
Eye Exam Cost at Lenscrafters
The cost of an eye exam without insurance at Lenscrafters starts at $73. Lenscrafters accepts most major insurance providers.
Eye Exam Cost at Visionworks
The cost of an eye exam without insurance at Visionworks starts at $75 but will vary based on the location you choose. Visionworks accepts most major insurance providers that can also help lower the fee.
America’s Best Eye Exam Cost
At America’s Best, eye exams are free when you buy two pairs of glasses. If you don’t buy two pairs of glasses, the eye exam is still only $50. America’s Best also accepts most major insurance providers.
How Much Does Insurance Cover an Eye Exam?
Traditional health insurance does not usually cover routine eye exams unless they’re considered “medical” exams. In this case, your health insurance might cover you if you have a medical eye problem. For example, while a routine vision exam may diagnose you with “nearsightedness,” a medical eye exam could give you a diagnosis like "conjunctivitis."
However, if your health insurance does not cover your regular eye exams, you can purchase additional vision insurance that can help. Depending on the insurance company and plan you choose, your vision insurance may cover some or all of your eye exam cost. The cost of your co-pay will also vary.
Can You Get an Eye Exam Without Insurance?
Yes, you can get a vision test without insurance, though eye exam prices will vary, and you will have to pay out of pocket for it — in addition to any eyeglass frames or contacts to correct any eye problems you may have.
If you do not have vision insurance to help cover your eye exam cost, you may choose to visit a larger retailer like Costco or Walmart that run optometric clinics with qualified eye doctors at lower costs. These retailers exist all across the United States.
Likewise, the National Eye Institute has a list of organizations that provide free eye exams, vision screenings, and, sometimes, free glasses (like EyeCare America and Lions Club International). Optometry Cares: The AOA Foundation also maintains a list of state-specific resources.