Ask LH: Can I Self-Diagnose Bad Eyesight?

Ask LH: Can I Self-Diagnose Bad Eyesight?

Hey Lifehacker, I have a few questions: Can I self-diagnose my eye sight like an optometrist would? And if I do visit an optometrist, who says the test is good enough? Should I get a second opinion to be sure? Thanks, Glasses Half Full

Eye picture from Shutterstock

Dear GFH,

As the adage goes, there’s an app for that! OPSM Eye Check is a free application for iOS and Android devices that performs basic eye tests to assess your vision. It covers near distance, distance (tablet required), constrast sensitivity, astigmatism and colour vision.

While you shouldn’t treat it as a substitute for a proper eye test, OPSM Eye Check is an easy and affordable way to keep an “eye” on the basics. You can download the Android and iOS versions here and here, respectively.

There are also numerous Ishihara tests available online which are designed to assess color perception (just do a quick Google search for plenty of examples). These tests involve identifying numbers or shapes inside a pattern of different coloured dots. If you have normal colour vision, the number or shape should be clearly visible. (Just be mindful that your results could be skewed by your monitor, especially if it’s low resolution or you are using a weird RGB setting.)

As to getting a professional assessment done, I’d say one optometrist is probably as good as any other. Unlike some physical ailments, it’s pretty hard to misdiagnose poor vision — either you can see properly, or you can’t. The testing procedure is pretty uniform across the board, so the results are likely to be roughly identical no matter where you go.

If you do have eyesight issues, the important thing to discover is the cause of it. Some visual impairments are highly degenerative without treatment, or may be related to an even worse problem like cancer. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to seek the advice of a professional instead of going down the self-diagnosis route. Good luck!


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  • Not all optometrists are created equal. I was visiting mine, and the new optician next door interrupted four times to ask questions. Questions that if the new opto went with their assumption, would result in am incorrect diagnosis.

    Eyes are incredibly complex. It’s not just about “yep you need glasses” or “you’re fine” anymore.

    I highly recommend going to see a quality optometrist who has 10+ years experience, and get the full suite of tests available at the location at least once every 3 years.

  • Remember you get one free bulk billed eye test a year in Aus. Also the quality of a prescription from an optometrist comes down to the quality of your feedback. The better feedback you give, the better the script will be. The optometrist can’t just look at your eyes and tell you what you need.

  • I didnt know I needed glasses until I tried on someone elses and saw how clear it was.

  • I’d be surprised if you don’t have some friends with glasses. Ask them what they think about their optometrist.

    It’s taken me a few years, but I’ve got one now that I’m incredibly happy with.

    Like any healthcare provider (doctor, dentist etc) finding the right one for you can take some time but it’s an important process to go through.

  • I was misdiagnosed. I saw one after my distance vision went bad after brain surgery (and the ophthalmologist cleared me). I can “see” distance, but it takes a lot of purposeful focussing. So I could pass the test and ended up with mild reading glasses. However I started wearing them all the time so went to get contact lenses. Saw a new optometrist because specsavers was offering free trials.

    There I again made the comment I can see, but not it was difficult, time consuming and sucky. What we found is one eye is short sighted and the other is long sighted. Bit weird, but not super rare. So now I have one + side and one – side on both my glasses and contacts and can see. The difference was like the difference between standard definition and high definition.

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