The Difference Between a Vision Screening and a Comprehensive Eye Exam

comprehensive eye exam vs. vision screening infographic


Clear vision is key to children’s success as they learn and develop skills like hand-eye coordination and visual perception. These skills help them recognize, comprehend, and retain information in the classroom, playing sports, and participating in other activities as they grow.

Children who experience frequent headaches, blink often or rub their eyes often, cover one eye or tilt their head to the side, may be signaling that they have a visual problem that requires treatment. When gone undetected or untreated, vision problems in children can make learning these important visual skills especially difficult and can even alter their personality.

While many schools offer periodic vision screening programs to detect eye problems in students, they are unable to diagnose concerns and will refer out for further evaluation. This typically means that the parent or guardian will need to set up a comprehensive eye exam with a licensed optometrist who can do more thorough testing to diagnose and treat as necessary.


A vision screening should not replace an annual exam with an optometrist. Compared to vision screenings, comprehensive eye exams are much more thorough and far better at diagnosing vision issues.


The main differences in vision screenings vs. comprehensive eye exams are highlighted below:


Vision Screenings Comprehensive Eye Exams
1.  A brief screening performed by a primary care provider, school nurse, or trained volunteer

2. Uses eye chart to test visual acuity

3. Limited by available test materials to detect the presence of ocular health issues

4. Referral made to a local optometrist for further evaluation if testing score does not pass

1. A thorough eye exam performed by a licensed optometrist at an optical center

2. Able to look at the back of the eye using pupil dilation along with assessing refractive status to determine nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism

3. In-depth exam using high-quality optical equipment

4. Optometrist will diagnose and treat ocular health issues and keep prescription up-to-date


Both children and adults can pass school vision screenings or other eye tests but still have an underlying vision problem go undetected. That’s why it’s so important for every age to get an annual comprehensive eye exam. A licensed optometrist will ensure individualized care and attention using updated optical technology and testing and provide an in-depth understanding of overall eye health and wellness.


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